Brown Boy Goes to Law School

Interviews: “Do you have any questions?”
January 14, 2011, 5:32 pm
Filed under: 3. Career Advice

Asking “how did you become an xyz lawyer?” comes across as “I am obsequious/shallow/unprepared.” Ask instead something like “What attributes do you see as critical to success in this position?” Then listen carefully, probe further, and learn what the firm, environment, and job are really like. The employer will find you serious, capable, prepared, and intelligent–the exact attributes that employers, clients, and judges need.”

Source: Cletus M. Weber, VOICE (AILA) – January/February 2011


The legal marketplace is causing general practitioners to go extinct
October 26, 2010, 5:38 pm
Filed under: 3. Career Advice

The marketplace for legal jobs is “falling apart” and is moving away from the “monolithic” law firm model and moving towards specialists, writes Gina Passarella of The Legal Intelligencer.  The change, driven in part by clients, but most just the marketplace, may be a permanent change in the legal marketplace rather than a merely temporary fad or trend.

It seems that the era of the general practitioner, which has been disappearing from the legal marketplace over the past few decades, is continuing to disappear.  Be advised.

Read the original article here.

Are virtual law firms the next big thing?
October 12, 2010, 3:40 pm
Filed under: 3. Career Advice

The Columbus Business Journal reports that lawyers who are leaving their jobs are increasingly launching “virtual law firms.”  One such firm, FSB FisherBroyles, has 56 lawyers who are “responsible for their own office space, whether that’s home or elsewhere.”  Attorney Gideon Moore, who left his corporate law practice to join the FSB virtual law firm, spends “a good deal of his time working from his house” in a small North Carolina town.  Moore wrote that it allows him to “go out and spend more time with my clients and go see them where they are.”

Moreover, the flexibility of virtual law firms is attractive to many women.  The Columbus Business Journal reports on the increase in female lawyers who are opening virtual law firms “so that they can have more time to spend with their families.”

The beauty of the virtual law firm is that there is virtually no overhead, which allows an “affordable alternative to the traditional law firm.”  Although the virtual law firm may not be suitable for complex litigation, it seems that virtual law firms–and the benefit they bring to lawyers and clients alike–seems to suggest that virtual law firms may be the next big time.

Link to original article: Attorneys Say Virtual Law Firms Allow Them To Bill Fewer Hours, Cut Costs

Take a good, hard look at the current legal market before committing to law school
September 20, 2010, 4:09 pm
Filed under: 1. Interested in Law School? Here's some advice., 3. Career Advice

In an article entitled, “A law degree ain’t what it used to be; many grads still look for work as big debt looms,” the Business Review reports on the recession’s stunning consequences on law graduates.

Lesson:  Take a good, hard look at the current legal market before committing to law school.  It’s kinda scary.

What To Wear To Court (Wall Street Journal)
September 6, 2010, 6:30 pm
Filed under: 3. Career Advice

“One California judge I spoke with says she takes account of both the appearance and the behavior of those who come before her court. Sloppy dress at trial might seem to add to the case against a father accused of neglectful child-rearing, she says. Or a woman who is claiming poverty in a financial hearing might undermine her case if she’s wearing highly expensive clothing. Juries may be even more judgmental, especially as they sit for hours with little to look at … but you.”

Read the full article here.

What do successful people have in common?
September 1, 2010, 5:58 pm
Filed under: 3. Career Advice

Law Professor Alan Palmiter at Wake University School of Law offered what he saw as the common theme in “great” and “successful people.”  The Professor explained that over the course of his life, he has come across and interacted with a great variety of leaders and intellectuals.  The Professor said that these individuals came from various industries and professions and left  varying degrees of impressions on him.  He offered what he believed to be the common theme in the “great” and “successful” people in the world:  The ability to focus.  That includes, perhaps, the ability to focus completely during a 3-hour evening law class by refraining to use the internet.  I guess not all of us can be great.

Federal Judge Rakoff on what it takes to be a successful lawyer
October 1, 2008, 8:08 pm
Filed under: 3. Career Advice

Judge Jed Rakoff stopped by our class! The man is awesome. Here’s some things he said that I found really interesting….

What do you need to be a successful lawyer? What qualities do you need?

The Judge said the #1 most important thing is: credibility. Especially having credibility with judges. For example, if the opposing lawyer didn’t do his homework and forgot to cite an important piece of law, which would have helped the Judge make the most accurate and best decision for the case (which is what Judges want to do), then YOU should bring it up, even if it hurts you! “Although my learned colleague didn’t mention this, I feel I should bring this up.” Judge Rakoff said if you do this, the Judge will go NUTS, and say “now THAT is what the legal profession is all about.” The Judge will treat everything that comes out of your mouth from that point onwards as the Gospel, and he will want to do you a favor. That is the example he gave. Credibility, he said, is by far the most important quality you need to be a successful lawyer.

#2 is Stamina. He said surviving through a case day in and day out is really hard work, and it requires a special person. It’s tough. You need stamina. Pace yourself and develop this quality.

#3 is Preparation. To have a successful trial, you have to know the details better than ALL the witnesses. You have to know the case inside and out. You have to do the gruntwork, invest the time to do the research, do your homework, and prepare. The Judge gave an example of a direct examination. If the opposing lawyer does a direct examination of his witness, and if he’s really confident and good and what he did, everything he said and everything the witness said will become firmly planted into the jury’s head. When he’s done with the direct examination, the jury will then suddenly turn to you. And BAM. There you are, ready to cross exam the witness, and you have to now convince the jury otherwise. If you do not have the “HAM”, if you do not know how to take command of the situation, you will fail. You have to convince the jury that you know more than anyone about anything in this case, and you have to convince them that. This comes with preparation. Do your homework.

Difference between preparing for a case as a trial lawyer vs a Judge

Judge Rakoff was both a prosecutor, a criminal defense lawyer, and is now a Judge. He discussed the difference in preparing for a case.

He said as a trial lawyer, you have to really immerse yourslef totally into the case. 7 days a week. You have to find every single fact and understand every little detail of teh case. You have to immerse yourself, your life, into the case. And it’s really fun.

As a Judge, it’s very difference. Especially in a bench trial where the judge decides the verdict (as opposed to a jury trial), you really have to know every detail. But obviously, it requires less intensive preparation than as a trial lawyer.

Advice for Shy Students

Judge said there are many more unhappy people in the legal profession than anytime before, and it’s a strange phenomenon, especially compared with other professions. Judge said he thinks one of the reasons is that lawyers increasingly think they have to select a job based on which one will lead them to the job they want, or will help them make the most money, and not based on what they are most passionate about. For example, taking a big job just to pay off loans, or more commonly, taking the job you don’t want to take, but you take it for the sole purpose that it’ll lead you to where you want to go in the future. Judge said take a job you’ll enjoy, and if you aren’t enjoying it, change it. He made clear: do not stick with a job just because you think it’s good for you, or because you think it’ll lead you somewhere later in life. This will make you very unhappy, and it’s why so many lawyers leave the profession.

Hope that was helpful.