It’s Not A Coronation

Frank Lloyd Wright, head-and-shoulders portrai...

If Frank Lloyd Wright held entry-level jobs upon his entry into architecture, what makes you think lawyers should do otherwise upon entry into the legal profession? Image via Wikipedia

Upon graduation from Medical School, not a single newly-minted doctor is competent to perform a heart transplant (or remove a wart, for that matter).

After graduation from engineering school and passing the FE exam, no single civil engineer is capable of competently building a bridge over a bay.

After architecture school, none of the recent grads are capable of designing on a Frank Lloyd Wright or HOK scale.

Each of these professions perform important services that, if done wrong, result in disaster. Each requires a baseline education and, more importantly, entry level job experience that assists in understanding the craft and how to practice it competently, all in the relative safety of a supervised environment.

Knowing that the legal profession also performs important services that, when done wrong, result in disasters of epic proportions, what on earth would make anyone think that Law School could ever mint lawyers capable of immediate, unsupervised, competent, and independent practice?

Wake up, shut up, get back to work, and remember that law school is only an introduction to the legal profession, not a coronation.

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7 thoughts on “It’s Not A Coronation

  1. I completely understand where you’re coming from. Practicing law right out of law school is a frightening idea to some recent graduates.

    However, if law firms aren’t hiring, what should people who have been newly admitted to the bar do?

    I have spoken with a handful of people who went solo right out of law school, and none of them regretted it. It seems it can be done so long as it is done thoughtfully and if the person seeks out the proper resources and mentors.

    • First, the jobs are there. The question is whether someone is willing to suppress their ego enough to take them. The jobs may not be perfect, or even ideal. However, many grads want perfect and ideal. Entry-level jobs suck, regardless of the profession.

      Upon graduation from law school, I only applied for only one job (an entry level one with the Army). At the same time, I was offered several other jobs by people who knew me. They were all entry-level. None were sexy. None paid big bucks.

      However, they were there.

      Second, the practice of law deals with providing proficient services for people who, usually, are desperate to find representation to guide them to the best possible outcomes.

      Had I hung my shingle in 2004, 2005, 2006, or even 2007 and 2008, I can tell you without any hesitation that I would have made colossal mistakes in my practice that would have hurt people. I made my decision to hang my shingle because I realized that I attained a baseline level of competence in one small niche–and it took me 6 years to get there.

      Don’t believe all the things people are trying to sell you. There are a lot of charlatans and hucksters looking to make a buck from the fear of potential solos/unemployed lawyers. Solo practice is tough–even tougher when you have no experience in your field. Is it possible? Yes. Will it be painful to you, and possibly your clients? Also, yes. Simple solutions do not exist.

      Finally, you are right in your assessment about the importance of mentors. However, understand the need to find quality mentors. Quality mentors do not accept $$$ for being a mentor. The relationship with the mentors must be extremely involved and even akin to a Partner/Associate relationship. The tendency in solo practice is to become caught in your own vacuum. That vacuum, for a novice lawyer, results in bad/uninformed decisions, and it will cost your clients severely.

    • You have an interesting way of explaining why going solo right out of law school can be done: “none of them regretted it.”

      Why “them”? So the lawyers who did so are pleased with themselves? Are their clients pleased with them? Do their clients regret their choice?

      By focusing only on the young lawyer, you miss the point. The law doesn’t exist to give lawyers something to do during the day or a way to earn a living. Sadly, that’s how most lawyers see it.

      Of course, if you ask the young lawyers, most will tell you (and firmly believe) that they’re doing a great job and their clients love them. It will take a few more years for them to appreciate their mistakes and mediocrity, though the ones incapable of improving will likely never realize how poorly they perform.

      • The point here is that there is often a strong disconnect between an attorney’s perception (of themselves) and the actual quality of representation. With a lack of experience, one usually fails to properly assess the latter.

        Two of the factors giving rise to this problem are 1. rampant blaming of law schools (why blame oneself when you can blame law school?) and 2. hucksters who like to sell vulnerable groups of lawyers on the idea that solo practice is the right thing to do in almost every circumstance–and easy.

        Being solo is wonderful and horrifying at the same time. Had I not developed a basis of skill and knowledge before going solo, it would be far more horrifying than wonderful. Even with 6+ years under my belt, the my first year of solo practice has been akin to the first 15 minutes of “Saving Private Ryan.”

        And, that was even after reading Carolyn Elefant’s Solo By Choice. You know, the book with the world’s ugliest office chair on the front.

  2. After designing hundreds handcrafted log and timberframed structures, I can assure you that in Architecture, there is a deeper variable to consider; that of art and creativety. One can be influenced by the great ones that went before, but true creativity is innate.

    Frank Loyd Wright says it best:

    “I’m no teacher. Never wanted to teach and don’t believe in teaching an art. Science yes, business of course..but an art cannot be taught. You can only inculcate it, you can be an exemplar, you can create an atmosphere in which it can grow.”

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