15 Thoughts for Law Students: A Mini-Manifesto

I’ve written a few mini-manifestos for clients and lawyers before and remain quite enamored with the format.  Here’s one for law students with some random (semi-related) thoughts on law school and the legal profession.  Let me know what you think, and feel free to add your own in the comments.

1.  Law school is a trade school.  The only people who don’t believe this to be true are the professors and deans.

2.  Want to piss off your professors?  Ask them if they’ve ever run a successful law practice.

3.  Being good at writing makes you a good law student.  Being good at understanding makes you a good lawyer.  Being good at arguing makes you an ass.

4.  You can learn more about client service by working at Starbucks for three weeks than you can by going to law school for three years.

5.  Law school doesn’t teach you to think like a lawyer.  Law school teaches you to think like a law professor.  Believe me, there’s a huge difference.

6.  You can get through law school without understanding anything about what it is like to be a lawyer.  That is a terrible shame.

7.  The people who will help you the most in your legal career are sitting next to you in class.  Get to know them outside of law school. They are pretty cool people.  They are even cooler when you stop talking about the Rule Against Perpetuities.

8.  Your reputation as a lawyer begins now.  Don’t screw it up (and quit bragging on Facebook about how drunk you got last night).

9.  Law is a precedent-based profession.  It doesn’t have to be a precedent-based business.  Be prepared to challenge the prevailing business model.  Somebody has to.

10. Experienced lawyers work with clients.  Young lawyers work with paper.  You like working with paper, right?

11. You are about to enter a world where getting your work done in half the time as your peers doesn’t get you rewarded.  It gets you more work.

12. Except for prosecutors and public defenders, nobody tries cases anymore.  Especially not second year associates.

13. You have a choice:  You can help people and make a decent living, or you can help corporations and make a killing.  Choose wisely.

14. There are plenty of things you don’t know, and even more things you’ll never know.  Get used to it.  Use your ignorance to your benefit.  The most significant advantage you possess over those who’ve come before you is that you don’t believe what they do.

15. People don’t tell lawyer jokes just because they think they are funny.  They tell lawyer jokes because they think they are true.  Spend your career proving them wrong.

13 Responses to 15 Thoughts for Law Students: A Mini-Manifesto
  1. Stephen Nipper
    October 9, 2007 | 1:02 pm

    Brilliant!

    An additional thought told to me a long time ago: “The most profitable lawyers were Business majors.”

    Don’t forget that…the practice of law is a business. The more time you invest in learning about being a better businessman/woman (aka law practice management), the more profitable you will be.

  2. Ray Ward
    October 9, 2007 | 6:01 pm

    A most excellent manifesto. I might quibble a little with # 3. After all, you can’t write well without understanding the topic and (maybe more importantly) the audience. And while writing is critical to success in law school (due to written final exams), it’s pretty important in the practice too. And I’m not too sure about # 13 — some personal-injury lawyers make a killing working with people, while a certain special counsel I know makes a decent living working for corporations. But nevertheless this is a fine manifesto, which law students should take to heart.

  3. lawschoolmom
    October 10, 2007 | 5:15 pm

    Excellent! Especially #10.

  4. CTG
    October 10, 2007 | 9:31 pm

    I’m living #10…I need a paper-cut rider on my health insurance plan….

  5. MK
    October 11, 2007 | 11:21 am

    And law school doesn’t teach you anything about passing the Bar…you are WAY on your own for that…

  6. PT-LawMom
    October 23, 2007 | 9:32 am

    Great list!!! If more students actually worked at law firms before law school, the enrollment numbers would probably go way down.

  7. Shelley
    October 23, 2007 | 10:51 am

    Wonderful tips! And amen to No. 4 — although I’d insert “Saks” for “Starbucks.” :)

  8. Funmurphys: the Blog
    November 12, 2007 | 1:10 pm

    Monday Roundup

    Matt Homann presents his manifesto for law students. Just to give a taste: 10. Experienced lawyers work with clients. Young lawyers work with paper. You like working with paper, right? 12. Except for prosecutors and public defenders, nobody tries cases…

  9. Funmurphys: the Blog
    November 12, 2007 | 1:10 pm

    Monday Roundup

    Matt Homann presents his manifesto for law students. Just to give a taste: 10. Experienced lawyers work with clients. Young lawyers work with paper. You like working with paper, right? 12. Except for prosecutors and public defenders, nobody tries cases…

  10. Amanda
    November 21, 2007 | 9:07 pm

    I agree with most of the lines, except numbers 10 and 12. Lawyers licensed for 4 days can win arguments. Lawyers licensed 2 months can try cases. And work with clients. But you have to go to a small firm to do it. Regardless, I think this should be required to be read with law school applications. It is trade school. And law office management and client management are the most important untaught skills in law school

  11. Yeoman
    November 23, 2007 | 4:36 pm

    Wow, great stuff.

    #12 isn’t entirely true, however. I think this is more accurate: “12. Except for prosecutors, public defenders, and tort lawyers from rural areas making 1/3d the amount you do, nobody tries cases anymore.”

    In rural states, the tort lawyers really do take a lot of cases to trial, and are good at it. They just don’t make much money doing it, and none of them like doing it.

  12. Garrett Worley
    January 27, 2008 | 1:16 pm

    Great manifesto!

    The quicker law students accept the fact that law is a business, the better off they’ll be. Unfortunately, law school won’t teach you how to build and maintain a law practice. For that, you’ll need an RSS reader.

  13. Sharon Lovell
    October 3, 2008 | 10:08 am

    I shot you a tweet about this post. Cannot say enough of how I will implement and use this manifesto when I begin school in three VERY short months. Yes, I want to pick your brain about lawyering and this is giving me good pickings! Feel free to tweet me @noreinsgirl or my email.

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