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Monday, October 17, 2011

Yet another reason for law students to develop some serious skills while in law school.

There's a trend toward clients not paying for the work done by first-year associates, on the theory that clients shouldn't be paying for training.  See this Wall Street Journal story (here).

Now, whether that's "fair" for clients to do isn't the issue.  Clients get to control what they will and won't pay for--at least unless absolutely no lawyers agree to absorb the costs of first-year training (and there will always be some lawyers who will agree to zero-out all first-year or summer associate time).  The fact is, if you're a law student, you need to be figuring out how to differentiate yourself from everyone else, and that means building up the skills that you can provide to your eventual employer(s).

But how do you do that if you can't find a job?  Yep, that's the problem.  Volunteering might not work because not all legal employers will take volunteers (due to insurance concerns or staffing concerns).  But there are two things that you can, and should, do during law school to increase the odds that someone will find your skills valuable.
  1. Extern.  (Or intern, or whatever your school calls working for someone who's doing some sort of legal work.)  Even though you have to pay for the privilege by paying tuition, there's no better way to see what's out there in the real world than working for someone.  At the very least, you'll become a better researcher and writer by externing.
  2. Participate in a clinic.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, is better than "live client" experience.  You'll learn both about the "hard skills" (drafting, negotiating, arguing in court) and the "soft skills" (listening, "reading" people, figuring out unspoken needs and motives) that lawyers use all the time.
We could bemoan the changes in legal practice today, or we can adapt to them.  I suggest adapting.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Read these two articles together.

See here (Florida's governor says that he'd rather fund educational disciplines that lead to jobs) with Brian Tamanaha's post on Balkinization (here) about how wildly misleading some law schools' employment numbers are.  Then get nervous.  Are law schools becoming educational dinosaurs?  Should they become dinosaurs?