As a law student, you are blissfully unaware of a reality that every young lawyer soon learns in their first year of practice—law school does not actually teach you how to practice law.
Now, before each of you demand a prompt refund from each of your respective legal institutions, I submit to each law student or recent graduate the following bits of information that I have learned in my short time of practicing law. These tools, while not an exhaustive list, aspire to provide some insight into what to do with those “critical thinking skills” you have thus acquired and hope to put to good use.
Most of you are quite familiar with the unsettling reality that most law school classes are graded by one final exam. Because of this torturous and peculiar schedule, law students typically create case summaries, briefs, or outlines that track information he or she learns throughout the course of the class instead of attempting to cram four months of information into your brain two weeks before a final. The practice of law is no different. In every lawsuit or transaction, every lawyer is faced with an end goal or desired result. Perhaps that end goal is trial or a final arbitration hearing or the closing of a real estate transaction. Whether you are a litigator or a transactional attorney, when you are assigned to a matter, you would be wise to ask about the end goal or desired work product and about the deadlines associated with those. Once you know where the end is, you should work with your supervising attorney to make sure that the case or transaction stays on track. You should also check in with yourself to make sure that your first draft does not come to the partner on the eve of a court deadline or that you did not spend 20 hours drafting a formal memorandum when the assignment called for a short email summary.