There’s a common saying that law school does not prepare you for being an attorney. I always assumed it was half right, but if you spend three years in school it better prepare you for something! Recently, I started a part time job doing civil litigation for a local attorney. I absolutely love when I’m doing and never thought I would enjoy civil litigation this much. But, that statement has proven true in entirety.
Now that I’m actually practicing, I realize how little technical knowledge I was given in law school. Sure, I can tell you what you’re rights are under Miranda and what voids a contract. But, I can’t tell you if I should admit or deny this allegation or what to file in discovery. Unfortunately, there is a large gap in legal education that misses these critical points to being an attorney. Instead, law schools rely on higher up attorneys to teach students what they are doing and in turn, these higher up attorneys dislike taking on “baby” attorneys.
At school when I ran into a law or law practice question I could go to a professor. When I couldn’t find an answer I needed for an appellate brief for class, I had someone to bail me out. Once you’re out on your own, it’s not necessarily the same. I find myself facing problems I have no clue how to tackle and thinking “I should just go ask an attorney” before realizing that I AM the attorney! Now, I know I can always ask my boss for guidance, and I frequently do. However, the pressure to be great at your job, not make mistakes, and not be too needy is overwhelming. As a new attorney, you want to impress your boss and hopefully move up the ranks and being the attorney that constantly needs hand-holding is not the way to go about that.
So, I think it’s time for attorneys and law schools to have a talk. It’s time for law schools to have a “technical knowledge” class that follows fictional cases beginning to end. It’s time for attorneys to work together and mentor each other without it being a huge career negative. And, most importantly, it’s time for law students and young attorneys to seek out opportunities to learn and mentors to show them the ropes so the legal profession continues to grow.