Too many lawyers? Maybe not
You’ve probably realized that you’re in law school at a time of significant change and challenge in the legal profession and the economy as a whole.
But if you’re feeling down, Lee Burgess at Law School Toolbox (lawschooltoolbox.com) has some encouraging words for you: “[T]here is much work left to be done in the world and we need good lawyers to do it.”
In a post called “Why the world still needs lawyers like you,” Burgess recounts a conversation with the head of a nongovernmental organization (NGO)—and a lawyer himself—who told her how the lawyers who work with him are changing lives and making the world a better place.
What if you don’t want to work for an NGO, or feel like you can’t because of your student loans? Take heart: “We also need smart, thoughtful lawyers to help businesses and individuals who are in crisis,” Burgess writes. “We need lawyers to be fair and keep the system in check. We need lawyers to fight the desire to be litigious all the time and instead work thoughtfully to get their clients’ needs met.”
It is true, Burgess concedes, that many Big Law jobs are drying up, and you might need to revise your dreams accordingly. “I encourage you to think about your role in our profession,” she advises.
And whatever your niche, she adds, “Practice well and make our profession proud.”
Networking: Make it personal
Whether you’re just starting law school or are beginning your 3L year, chances are, you’ve already heard a lot about networking.
In a post called “Quality, not quantity” at her blog A2Z (www.law.umich.edu/connection/a2z), Sarah C. Zearfoss gives a gentle reminder: Networking must be personalized to be most effective—and should not be done by e-mail blast.
Zearfoss, assistant dean and director of admissions at the University of Michigan Law School, recounts that a lawyer friend of hers recently received an e-mail from a recent graduate of the friend’s alma mater. The e-mail said only that the two had gone to the same school, what city the graduate was based in, and that the graduate wished to speak with the lawyer.
What’s wrong with that? “Most lawyers measure out their lives in the coffeespoons of one-tenth of an hour increments,” Zearfoss writes, “and all of them feel understandably leery about starting any conversation with a stranger that might lead to their devoting three or four or five coffeespoons before they can extract themselves.”
Does that mean you shouldn’t network via e-mail? No. But to successfully reach busy lawyers, Zearfoss writes, you should begin by targeting the ones who are most likely to be able to help you—such as those who practice in a city or area of law that attracts you.
Briefly and clearly describe the type of work you’re seeking, your background, what type of conversation or assistance you’re looking for, and why you hope to connect with this lawyer in particular, Zearfoss advises.
“Volume e-mailing is just no substitute for effort,” she says.
Legal writing tip: Avoid clichés
If you want to improve your legal writing, one great way is to steer clear of clichés.
But what if you’re new to this particular kind of writing and don’t know which terms add flair and which ones are already stale?
Perhaps Wayne Schiess, director of the legal-writing program at the University of Texas School of Law, can help. He’s seen it all, and in a post called “Clichés in legal writing” at his blog Legalwriting.net (blogs.utexas.edu/legalwriting), he lists a few terms that he and other experts would like to see less often. Among them:
can of worms;
fall through the cracks;
second bite (at the apple);
vigorous dissent; and
Some experts believe that clichés can still be useful, especially if given a clever twist, but Schiess isn’t so sure. “You should play it by ear,” he advises—italicizing to indicate another cliché. “It goes without saying that attempts at cleverness and humor often fall flat. As a pancake.”