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Open Letter to Law Schools: What Law Students Need to Learn to Be Hired By Tomorrow’s Largest Legal Employer – Solos & Smalls

by Carolyn Elefant on October 17, 2013 · 28 comments

in Future Fridays, Trends

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LSITDear Law Schools,

I’m guessing most of you don’t read my blog (not sufficiently academic or arcane) so permit me to introduce myself.  I am a real, live practicing lawyer with a firm in Washington D.C. Though perhaps atypical for a solo or small, I focus on several growing fields (emerging renewable energy technologies and micro-grids, pipeline regulatory proceedings and eminent domain on behalf of landowners and communities and 21st century legal ethics) that many of your students are beating down doors to enter. And because I recognize this, I’ve gone out of my way to hire and pay law students and new grads in my field because I believe that my generation in this profession owes an obligation to train those who come after.

But increasingly, I am finding that many of your students are, quite frankly, useless to me; lacking the basic skill set necessary to incorporate them quickly and seamlessly into a busy and frequently resource-constrained practice like mine.  Sure, I can understand having unformed research and analytic skills right out of law school. Over twenty years in, I still improve my skills with every brief or motion that I write.

Yet what I can’t fathom or tolerate is the utter lack of curiosity that many (but not all) new grads bring (or don’t bring) to the table when they hit the job market. I know that times are tough and it’s hard to be optimistic and proactive about the future when hope is dim. And certainly law school squeezes a lot of the natural inquisitiveness out of even the most hearty of students. Even so, how can today’s students not be excited about the cornucopia of riches at their fingertips — from free caselaw, free online legal briefs and memos by top attorneys, substantive analytic blogs galore, and an endless stream of news items on Twitter curated by experts in every field? Back in the day, I’d have been all over these tools, and yet like monks at a peep show, many law students simply avert their eyes and continue on their way. Nothing to see here — or so, they’re taught.

And maybe that attitude works over at big law, where associates need to stay hyper-focused to churn billable hours, while partners favor newbies who look to superiors rather than external sources as a font of knowledge. But out here in small land, where I scramble to keep up in three hot practice areas where I go up against AmLaw 100 firms (I’ll bet you’re surprised that solos actually do that! And win too!) while raising a family and blogging, I need young lawyers who can keep a pulse on my industry and inform me of what’s new.  I want new lawyers to challenge me every single day, not to sit like potted plants waiting for the next assignment.  And most importantly, lawyers who work with me have got to have basic 21st technology skills.

Now you law schools probably wonder what a lowly small firm lawyer is doing lecturing law schools about what they should be teaching.  After all, you have experts who write reports, you have big firm donors on your board not to mention a huge brain trust of really smart people populating your faculty and administration.  Heck, I don’t even rank high enough in the blogosphere to rate a quote in the New Republic’s article on how to fix law school.

But here’s why what my solo and small firm colleagues and I have to say matters so much.  Back in the day, most schools prepped attorneys to work at big law – but those jobs are gone for good.  Likewise, most government employers, which can hire big law cast offs with several years of experience, won’t touch new grads.  With the rising popularity of the “future of law,” the cool kids – like Axiom command lots of attention as the next big thing but I’ve got news for you: those guys can cherry-pick top talent (which is, after all their business model); if they deign to hire your new grads, it will be to support marketing or data analytics, not to practice law.

So, hate to break it to you, law schools, but you’re stuck with employers like me: solo and small firms who are the face of today’s legal employers. Maybe we don’t have the resources to hire your students long term or for much pay, but at the very least, we’re a safe harbor where they can gain valuable experience before they move on to a more permanent and stable position.

Now, I know when you hear the word “solo,” many law schools figure that you’ve got that angle covered with the now celebrated law school incubator programs. Don’t get me wrong – they’re a great idea as far as they go. But many of us solos and smalls who can actually hire your grads aren’t handling the pro-bono/low-bono cases that incubator participants handle. Moreover, incubators can handle only a handful of lawyers each year and the demand for skilled grads is much greater.

Besides, you DON”T need another program or clinic or five million dollar fancy pants teaching law firm  to teach the skills that I consider critical. Likewise, Suffolk Law School’s partnership with legal audit guru Casey Flaherty is certainly ambitious and a great way to put the school in the spotlight. But as I’ve pointed out , most solos and smalls have and expect far more advanced technology than the basics expected in Flaherty’s audit. (see this neat Infographic for a summary. Note, not much mention of the cloud for starters. And who doesn’t use a scanner these days?)

So even though no one has asked, here’s what I would do to train students in the basic tech skills that they need. To make it simple, I’ve outlined the competencies that are needed to succeed in 21st century law practice and how to integrate them seamlessly into the curriculum so that they become part of students’ daily routine.

1. Analysis and Legal Writing
Call me a traditionalist, but legal analysis, research and writing are hands-down most important skills that law school can teach. I need someone who understands the importance of seeing a case from a million different sides and building a persuasive argument out of the disparate pieces. I need someone who can write with confidence and power and purpose, cogently and void of jargon. These competencies improve as you go – and as a lawyer, there’s nothing more rewarding than watching a new lawyer’s written and analytic skills blossom under your tutelage. But in order to reach the point where I can function as a mentor or teacher, there needs to be some “there” there – and I’m not seeing it in many (but not all) of today’s grads.

It’s fairly easy to reinforce analysis and writing skills into law school.  Each time you read a case, why not take a look at the underlying briefs. Which arguments persuaded the court and why? What kind of writing was most understandable or sufficiently unique that it generated a “shout out” (i.e., a direct quote) from the court.  It’s this kind of stuff that ignites curiosity in law students – and by having them figure out how to find briefs online, using briefs to amplify cases instills resourcefulness too (note – pulling briefs off LEXIS isn’t the same. You need to experience the look of the brief, typos, funky fonts and all to evaluate its effectiveness).

2. Blogging
If there is a single skill that I wish law schools would focus on, it should be blogging. I know I’m biased – I’m a blogger myself – but the discipline of writing regularly combined with the urgency of getting timely posts to press – has improved my legal writing immensely. Incorporating blogging into legal education  is moronically easy.  Professors could assign students to blog about the daily lecture, relevant topics (e.g., students could blog about bankruptcy law). Doesn’t have to be every day; maybe 3-4 posts per class per semester. Blogging would also get students comfortable with blogging software which is another key skill since they could offer to blog for practicing lawyers and help build up content.

The importance of blogging isn’t limited to writing blogs. Students gain insight from reading. If you want to learn about criminal law – both the substantive issues and the practice,there is, hands down, no better place than the criminal defense blogs listed here, most of them by lawyers in the trenches.  But there are substantive blogs for lots of other practice areas.  In fact, I’m not even suggesting that lawyers stick to law related blogs. I track the future of lawyer and trends that I post on here or here not at law sites but rather places like TechCrunch which are months ahead of anything that makes its way down to legal. For my practice area, I’m more like to look at green finance sites rather than blogs on energy law. What’s important is to keep current and engaged.

3. Social Media
This one’s often controversial but I need attorneys who can do social media.  Last time I asked a law school to deliver students with these skills, I was treated to resumes that included a line about personal interests – scuba diving, cheese tasting and jogging.  Mildly interesting, but COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT to what I need. For example, I run a resource-constrained trade association and the easiest way for us to stay current is through twitter. That’s how I keep my firm in front of potential clients as well.  Social media also works for traditional networking events. It’s a no-brainer to set up a Facebook page for a monthly networking group yet some law students don’t have that skill either.

To be honest, I don’t know why more law students aren’t up to speed on this stuff – my high school aged daughters use it. Twitter and FB incorporate well in law school as well. Again, each day, have a student tweet a law school class – or tweet from conference events. Professors should be setting up Facebook groups for each class where students can ask questions and continue dialogue out of class. Social media has so, so many applications for law schools I can’t even cover them here – but couldn’t be easier.

4. Video and Visuals
Video is another way to produce content. My video skills are not great and I don’t have the time to master them. But law students should be. Video integrates easily with law school.  Video record “witness” testimony and practice admitting it (or presenting it) on an ipad in trial advocacy. Students can record moot court, interviews and an array of other interactions and review and critique them to improve performance. Video production capabilities are almost as important as word processing skills in today’s law office- so student should start mastering them.
Likewise, visuals – the ability to reduce complex ideas to visuals are gaining popularity. This is an area that law schools are starting to focus on though I wish they’d help redesign the boring, work-a-day stuff like lawyer representation agreements instead of putting together games and fun charts that granted, are more interesting but not as useful to practitioners.

5. Online research
Solos and smalls don’t have unlimited Westlaw accounts. Most of us use a variety of tools (here, I use LEXIS for energy, HeinOnline through Jenkins Law Library and SSRN for law journals, Google Scholar for lay of the land research and FastCase app for on the road research) – and what’s most important is the ability to segue way seamlessly from one to the other and then manage knowledge from multiple sources in one place. Easiest solution – ditch the LEXIS/Westlaw addiction and use a variety of research tools from the outset.  I like Evernote to compile research but there are plenty of other ways, including desktop file management.

6. Practice Management Tools and Cloud
Todays’ lawyers need fluency with cloud technologies. Not a specific system per se, but the concept of uploading, downloading, synching and sharing files and of course, security. Granted, this stuff is so easy to use that it’s not hard to train lawyers on how to do it. But what is difficult is instilling the process – for example, making clear that once a matter is filed, it’s got to be uploaded to my cloud-based files as well as saved on your own system.  It shocks me that many law schools don’t use cloud to share files – I know it is changing, but not fast enough.

The list above is just a cursory itemization of the skills that would help many solo and small firm lawyers. But I welcome feedback from other lawyers on what you consider important.

In addition to what I need, let me also save you some time and money from investing in programs to teach skills that I really don’t need from grads.  Specifically, I don’t need law school to teach students “faux skills” by lawyers who’ve never practiced. For me, a semester or two working in a legal clinic or experience in moot court or mock trial fits the bill. Believe it or not, teaching someone how to e-file a complaint or format a brief isn’t rocket science — and what’s more, procedures differ court to court, so I’d rather not have someone assume that the process they learned in law school applies everywhere. So long as law schools teach students to read the rules, call the clerk and ask questions about unclear procedures (and you’d be surprised how few have learned this) — and give students time to court-watch (in person is best, but webcast will work if available), I can take it from there.

Earth to law schools, the bottom line is this. Once upon a time, you all would have hung your heads in shame at the horror of your illustrious students slumming in solo and small land. Reality check — working full time or on a contract or part time basis for a solo or small firm may be the future for the majority of your students.  What’s more, my guess is that many of your grads would be grateful for an opportunity to actually use their legal skills instead of being directed to non-legal analyst or marketing jobs or doc review.   Moreover, the practice of law has changed, and in case you haven’t noticed, solos and smalls are neither bumbling losers nor morons churning out cookie-cutter wills and incorporations using fill-in-the-blank forms that you believe.

We solos and smalls are, and have always been cutting edge and ahead of the curve of the profession. Because of technology, we can now ably handle complex, sophisticated matters that might not have been possible a few years back and increasingly, we are the choice of many large firm clients who are less concerned about pedigree than you law schools are.  We can help rescue our profession from this mess (brought on, largely I might add, by large firms who never thought that the day of reckoning would come). But to help, law schools need to do their part by producing graduates who can serve our needs so that we can serve our clients.

 

Ivy clad house image courtesy of Shutterstock

  • Jacob Sapochnick

    Great Article, hands down relevant. At a recent job interview I asked the candidate if he is willing to help update our Blogs daily. He had no clue what I was talking about. This should be mandatory reading to all law schools.

  • Kelly Twigger

    Here Here!!! I’m forwarding this on to my colleagues in legal education. Well said, Carolyn. I would add that understanding the basics of technology and electronic discovery are key as well.

  • myshingle

    I get that all that time. I can’t believe it! And updating blogs is substantive work. A great way to learn about a practice area. It is win win for all but if someone can’t blog well…that’s a problem

  • Jacob Sapochnick

    Needless to say he didn’t get the job:)

  • Josh brown

    AWESOME!!! great article

  • myshingle

    Yes, absolutely add e-discovery skills to the list. To be honest, mine are not great since most of my cases do not involve large amounts of documents. If I ever found myself in that situation, having a young attorney who could help me with basics would be tremendous.

  • Steve G

    All true, but you’re Litigation-oriented, perhaps also Gov’t city. Do you think solos these days have to have at least part of their practice dedicated to litigation/ADR for revenues–estate lit, corp lit, administrative law litigation, real estate lit—for ex, IP registrations other than patents are bupkes, IP litigation is the $$ practice. Wills are bupkes, estate lit. is lucrative. Corp. arbitrations also.

  • myshingle

    Yes, you are right, my skills list does reflect bias. For example, would be good to teach students about drafting, automation and how to determine whether docs on line are worthwhile starting points or garbage. Perhaps acquiring knowledge about the technology-enabled settlement tools would also be helpful. My list is not intended to be exhaustive though I am sure it will be portrayed as such. In addition, I tried to focus on skills that help across the board. For example – understanding cloud tools helps in litigation but also drafting, online deal rooms, etc…

  • Tamar Cerafici

    I spent several hours with emerging law students during my 25th reunion week last month. While the students are crying for permission to talk about themselves as qualified for 21st century practice (some even pay for law school writing web sites or build SEO rankings) they still feel like they have to talk less about their real experience and more about what they’ve done in the vacuum.

    In fact, one of the students had put their business (real clients & everything) alongside their interests and hobbies. When asked why, the student claimed that “career services suggested that’s where it belonged.”

    If law schools are to be worth anything in the next several decades, a good place to start the change you advocate is the career services center. Practical lawyers are looking for the kind of creativity and technical know-how the Millenials have, particularly if it’s coupled with mad analytical skills. Career offices should celebrate that.

  • shg

    I spent about an hour on the phone with a lawyer yesterday (someone you know, by the way) who told me a story about his associate. She has all the skills you list. In spades.
    But we weren’t talking about giving the associate a raise, or making her partner. No, we spoke about his firing her. You see, despite all those skills, he needed her to manage a case, go to court, handle the client. It was a slam dunk case. She lost it. He lost the client.
    But she knew social media like the back of her hand.
    He liked her very much, but he practices law and needed an associate who was good at being a lawyer. Maybe you should add that to the list.

  • myshingle

    Scott, I completely agree. My list is limited to what law school needs to teach. I am willing to the skills that you list because they need to be taught by real practicing lawyers who know what they are doing AND they are practice specific. At best, most law schools have only a handful of practicing lawyers on staff, and even then, I question the caliber that they can attract. But here’s the thing – if I am going to invest time in training attorneys (and I do a really good job – I mark up their writing, send them to CLEs and to watch proceedings, give them client contact out of the gate), I need to have someone with skills that I can use right away. I don’t want to have to spend time teaching someone that yes, you kind of want to address an opponent’s argument in a brief or explain how to set up a cloud account. And I would never retain someone who was incompetent in managing cases or dealing with clients just because he or she had the other skills.

  • http://blog.mckeeoffice.com/ Sharmil McKee

    Do you know what I wish law schools would teach? I wish they would show students how to find and keep clients. Marketing and sales are important skills that many lawyers lack. And I don’t know why. But without paying clients, we don’t have a job.

  • http://blog.mckeeoffice.com/ Sharmil McKee

    You know there is no such thing as a “slam dunk” case. The minute you start thinking things are predictable, is the minute you lost your case.

  • Paula Marie Young

    I blogged on the solo and small firm market here. I could not agree more. I teach marketing in my mediaiton course and assign a book on the topic. http://the-red-velvet-lawyer.blogspot.com/2013/07/25-year-law-practice-employment-trends.html

  • Paula Marie Young

    Most of the faculty members at the Appalachian School of Law have more than 10 years of practice experience. Many of us have over 20 years of practice experience. We are very unique in that respect. A new study indicated most law faculty, at elite schools, have less than a year of practice experience. Astonishing, right?

  • myshingle

    Thx for the link to your great post. I think scholarship is also important but many practicing attnys are so familiar with their fields that they have the scholarly angle covered too

  • Emily Wood Smith

    I wish I had researched using other legal databases and websites besides Lexis and Westlaw while in law school! Love your #5 recommendation! As a small firm owner, I rely on Casemaker, which the Alabama bar provides free for members. Wish I had practiced using it in law school!

  • Sandra Stanfield

    Love this article. As a 3L and a future solo these points really hit home and I have found myself doing a lot of extra research during my years of law school, reading, self teaching, and finding knowledgeable resources to help guide me so I would be in the right mind set for post law school practice. There is so much law schools could be doing to better adapt legal education to today’s legal market. Technology is huge, yet has very little application in law school in terms of preparing for practice. Many of the other skills you mentioned were certainly on point as well. I am just thankful for resources like MyShingle and I was so lucky to stumble upon Stephanie Kimbro through my online research during law school. Invaluable resources to say the least. Law schools may not be getting it right, but hopefully law students wake up, realize the true state of the legal market and become more aggressive in shaping their careers and tap into the resources that are out here for those hungry for it. Law school really only preps you for a portion of what you need to be in tune with in the real world. Great post!

    From an anxious 3L ready to take on being a savvy 21st century solo

  • R.P.

    Does anyone else but me find this focus on “blogging”, marketing and “social media” for new lawyers utterly depressing? Doesn’t it mean the game is up – that new lawyering is now akin to getting your first job as a salesman at a car dealership on a 100% commission basis, i.e., you don’t get paid until you ‘sell.’ You know, people in real careers (medicine, investment banking, and formerly the law) aren’t out there having to “sell” themselves. They learn their career, they get good at it, and they service clients and customers. One of my best friends is a doctor, a surgeon. When we were young, I decided to become a lawyer (I was good at things like history, and English) and he decided to become a doctor (math and science). He was not a perfect student but he is now a surgeon who makes a great salary. He does not “blog” during the day; he does not have a twitter account to get business. He is too busy operating on people and taking care of patients. Can you imagine if he had become a doctor, after all that work and schooling, and the attending physician at his first job lectured him that “you don’t just get business without selling yourself! Go out there and start a blog, so that you get patients!” Believe it or not, the law used to be that way. The law schools have an obligation to tell law students that there is not enough work, and that they will be “selling” themselves the same as if they went into their own business and owned a dry cleaner or something. Young lawyers, if the time has come where you have to learn silly skills like “social media” (whatever that means), then just go for an entry level job at a big company and get promoted as much as you can – you’ll eventually make more money than as a lawyer, and you won’t have to know as much stuff.

  • Jordan Rushie

    Of all of these skills you list, the only ones that I find useful are analysis, legal writing, and research.

    What I’m surprised you’re missing is ability to inspire confidence in clients that their matter is being handled correctly, presence in a courtroom, understanding the “big picture” and not reacting to opposing counsel, managing written communication, appropriate billing, identifying the client’s need and addressing it, avoiding malpractice, adding value to a law firm by either bringing in clients or ensuring that you handle matters in a way that isn’t a money sink for the firm, etc. Just to name a few.

    Blogging? Social media? As for video, I hire a videographer who has the right equipment. Because I don’t want a bobo video a law student made with an iPad to go on before the jury.

  • myshingle

    Maybe the focus is depressing – but if you want to practice law, sometimes you have to sell yourself. I feel like I have had an opportunity to do some really neat things in my practice area – but they are areas that I developed myself and found clients for them through blogs, setting up trade associations and other non-lawyer skills. I could have stayed at government or a firm and done this too but the cases I handle are more rewarding

  • myshingle

    Jordan – all the things that you identify are important but not all are capable of being taught in law school – which was the point of this post. I am willing to hire and train law students. I enjoy doing that and it fits my business model. But in order for it to be worthwhile for me to take the time to train someone on the basics of my practice area, I need them to have skills that I can convert immediately so that I can offset what I do in one area and take the extra time to work with them. I tried to focus on capabilities that can be easily integrated into the curriculum and put into action on day 1.

    That said, my list was not intended to be comprehensive – and a number of the skills that you have listed should be included. Avoiding malpractice is important and capable of being taught in a class (for example, students could document assignments, identify another student as a “back up” (like back up counsel), calendar deadlines and create checklists. Likewise, understanding the big picture is a significant skill – though for me, that skill falls within the rubric of analysis and writing.

    As for identifying client needs, I agree that this is VERY important. But I just don’t see how it can be taught in law school – and I am happy to teach it on the job. I give the people who work for me client contact right at the outset and that has proven to be the most effective way to have them understand client needs. Working efficiently and not wasting money is also an important skill but I think there’s a lot of judgment that goes into that component that can’t be taught.

    Finally, I am not suggesting that new lawyers be used to replace staff or professionals. I have an admin assistant – I don’t ask law students to bate stamp appendices or format complicated documents. I certainly would not use a handmade video in court – but it would be nice to be able to make a few recorded CLEs or programs for clients and I don’t think a professional is warranted for those matters.

  • Susan Cartier Liebel

    Sandra, it is so refreshing to hear you say you are ready and willing and able to take on whatever the profession has to throw at you. There are more and more online resources available to those (especially) students who are willing to lay the groundwork now for after graduation. It will be all about shaping your own future. In just a few years it is predicted 40% of the American work force will be self-employed. Extrapolate this to the legal field which already has a disproportionate number of solos and you get roughtly 68% of all private practice attorneys will be solo. You have to be your own profit center regardless of where you land in this field and build the entire skill set…not just one. Law schools need to wake up.

  • Jordan Rushie

    Coming from a young guy who actually runs a successful law firm, technology is like, 1/4 of what you need to know in order to successfully run a law practice. Probably less.

    If you plan on building your practice around technology, well, good luck.

    Here is some of my advice… perhaps instead of looking online for help, consider taking an attorney with grey hair on their head out to lunch and ask them how they built their law practices. The answer probably won’t be “an iPad and cloud computing.”

    The basis of your practice should be competence, ability to serve clients, and a reputation among the bench and the bar for excellence. All this technology is stuff is convenient, but it won’t help you cross-examine a live witness, make a closing argument, take a deposition, manage your cash flow, get something admitted into evidence, control a client, understand the rules of procedure for you, appropriately identify a client’s problem (and perhaps even solve it), or draft a persuasive motion. It just won’t.

    Technology is never going to change the fundamental skills necessary to be a good lawyer. Anyone who tells you that it will is probably selling something.

  • myshingle

    Jordan, presumably you are responding to the commenter above you who raises a different point than I did. I am not talking about what it takes to run a practice but rather, what it takes for new grads to be useful enough for me to want to train them. As I have said repeatedly, I don’t think that law school can ever teach real trial skills or how to solve client problems. That’s the stuff that lawyers learn on the job.
    Maybe technology can’t change the fundamental skills necessary to be a good lawyer, but it sure can supply additional ammunition. When I started my firm – almost 20 years ago – LEXIS cost $600/month for 12-15 searches. Because I couldn’t afford that cost, I researched cases through annotated statutes and decennial digests and went to obscure libraries (like the SEC or the Edison Electric trade association library) to read the trade press. How effective do you think my briefs were back then compared to now, where TECHNOLOGY has introduced competition into the legal research arena and slashed the costs of online research (today, for $200/month, I have unlimited access to energy materials and procure everything else I need through even lower cost services). Likewise, how many mentors do you think I had access to when I started my law firm? I think there was one other person I knew who had started a firm (and he was a little bit shady). But through blogs and listserves, I’ve met mentors on ethics issues and role models on law practice. There is no way I could deliver the type of service that I do today without existing technology. I guess in some ways, technology is like make-up – sure, both are superficial and make up will never transform me into Miss America just as technology won’t make me the next Johnnie Cochran – but both tech and makeup go a long way to enhance what I already have.

  • Jordan Rushie

    Why can’t we teach trial skills in law school?

    Law school is the one place you can get a live witness and if you mess it up, guess what? Who cares? No one is going to jail, or no one is getting a judgment against them. I think it’s incredibly irresponsible to let baby lawyers get their practice on real live cases. “Oops, sorry I messed it all up, but next time I promise I’ll do a good job. See you in 20 years.” To the extent it’s possible, we should let students practice fundamental lawyer skills in schools, not in the arena where it matters.

    It’s no impossible, either. I’ve been to plenty of NITA CLEs. Having classes that are structured similar to NITA CLEs (where they video tape you taking depositions, crossing witnesses, opening, closing, etc.) would be far far far far more valuable than learning how to blog or Tweet. I took a two week long CLE on how to take effective depositions, and it is one of the most valuable things I’ve ever done. Why not offer that in law school?

    I’m just not sold on technology leveling the playing field for inexperienced baby lawyers to start law firms.

    Technology makes lawyers more efficient. It makes my own firm more efficient, and more competitive. But it doesn’t make anyone a better lawyer. And that is what matters.

  • abranan

    What of the toxic load of debt? I’ve developed somewhat of a niche agriculture practice that excites many young people (usually for naive reasons) but for those who approach me, each and every one it seems carries an unsustainable load of debt, and thus wholly inflated expectations of what I am supposed to provide them out of the gate while they try to learn the same skills I’m still learning myself (the little contract drafted or LLC they “formed” at the L school clinic was play time). I need to invest in someone so the practice can grow, but I feel like I’m pouring money down the drain to invest in someone with a shallow arc of long-term sustainability (ie. they simply don’t have the financial patience to grow in small practice). (I carried that debt load during the 90s and was somewhat bitter about it, and actually left the profession for a decade to pay off my loans, and having done so, only then could I reenter practice). I can see the real benefits to the profession of using that wasteful 3d year as a practical apprenticeship as requirement for the bar exam, but surely the law schools can’t abide that loss of federally-guaranteed student loan revenue.

  • Leah T

    I am not in the legal field and have basically no reason to be posting here… but I’d say that these days, “selling” yourself is one of the more crucial skills anyone can have, whether it’s in a legal career or otherwise. As someone who, not that long ago, was on the market with her master’s degree desperately looking for someone to hire her, I can attest to the importance of being able to sell yourself and your abilities in a market that has increasingly fewer companies willing to take a risk on new grads. Blogging and social media aren’t just “silly skills”– for millenials (and, increasingly, for many businesses), they are a living portfolio that reflects a person’s abilities, skills, connections, and level of influence.

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