Four Skills They Should’ve Taught In Law School
“I was typically thrown into a deposition, settlement negotiation, motion hearing, and so forth, with little more than a pep talk and a pat on the back.”
Sound familiar? Those were the words of Matthew Hickey, a San Francisco lawyer and blogger specializing in music and technology. They reflect a dichotomy that many attorneys feel. On one hand, many believe that law school failed to prepare them for the practical aspects of being a lawyer. On the other, as Hickey expresses, “Some lessons just have to be learned over time”:
“The best “lessons” I’ve received are ones that almost certainly had to be learned on the job: making a record of an unpopular position before a hostile judge, negotiating a settlement with a rude and/or belligerent opposing counsel, and having to admit to a partner/client that I’d made a mistake. In other words, even if I’d spent a year or more taking courses teaching practical skills or interning full time, there would still have been a lot left for me to learn.”
Although Hickey concludes that attorneys learn best by being thrown into action, he does pinpoint four skill sets where he was woefully unprepared upon entering the practice:
1) Billing: It’s not what you know, but how much you bill. In Hickey’s words, “if you’re an associate at a big firm, there’s a pretty good chance your career will rise and fall with your annual billable hours.” And your time won’t always be billed hourly, so be sure to master other billing measures like flat fees or hybrid.
2) Accounting: If you’re running your own practice, this will make-or-break you. Know what you’re making and what it’s costing you to make it.
3) Marketing: Clients don’t just drop in at your office. Good marketing drives them there. If you want to grow, you need to find ways to build awareness, connect, and motivate.
4) Networking: According to Hickey, “the only true job security comes from building a big book of business.” As an attorney, your job isn’t just representing your client’s interests. It also entails constantly adding new business to your firm. As a result, you must always be reaching out to people in your community and industry.
Source: Rocket Lawyer
This week, GQ reported that Texas Senator Ted Cruz, as a Harvard law student, allegedly wouldn’t study with anyone who hadn’t matriculated from Yale, Harvard, or Princeton. Like many, Cruz believed that his study group – and the people who comprised it – was fundamental to his success. Question is, does a study group yield the return-on-investment that so many believe?
Recently, Lee Burgess, co-founder of Law School Toolbox and an adjunct law professor, attempted to debunk some of the myths surrounding study groups. In particular, she challenges five bedrock notions:
1) It’s Key To Being At The Top Of Your Class: A study group can help you clarify concepts or provide moral support. When exams come, it is, in Burgess’ words, “…all about you and your ability to do legal analysis.” A study group won’t “help you get great grades unless you know everything in the outline and are able to apply it correctly to a fact pattern.”
2) Sharing The Work Makes You More Efficient: In Burgess’ experience, meetings often degenerate into gossip and gripe sessions. In addition, some people simply learn better alone at their own pace. However, Burgess found study groups “helpful when working on sample exam questions or discussing larger concepts.”
3) Study Group Members Know What They’re Doing: Actually, study groups sometimes turn into exercises in lawyering…and that’s not necessarily helpful. Students often approach a concept or case differently; what’s significant to one is a footnote to another. In groups, the “right” answer is often determined by the member with the strongest personality. And that just fosters groupthink.
4) Select Group Members Early Or Be Stuck With Lower Ranked Classmates: Burgess argues two points here. First, studying is about personal chemistry as much as aptitude. How can first years know which people will actually bring out their best? Second, who determined that studying with just one group is the best choice? Burgess advises students to “shop around” and study with various people or work with certain groups temporarily depending on the content.
5) But Everyone Is Doing It: Study groups aren’t always the best uses of time, Burgess notes. “Remember, as much as everyone loves to tell you there is one way to be successful in law school, you have to decide what is best for you.”
Source: Law School Toolbox
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