Future Lawyers & Skills That Barry Law School Students Need to Develop

This sub-headline in Peer to Peer: The Quarterly Magazine of ILTA, about law firm practices, recently caught my eye:

“Lawyers have traditionally been in the business of selling hours, but today’s client wants to buy results, not attorney time.  This new buyers’ market is forcing firms to identify ways of driving efficiency and process improvement, and information professionals are uniquely positioned to help.”

It struck me that many students may be thinking about billing hours once they go into practice.  Instead, our bright Barry Law students should be thinking about selling the product of their analytical thinking, their research and their writing – the results.  Results will ultimately build your professional reputation and your clients’ desire to return to you for more advice.  So, what does that mean for those of you who are just finishing your second or third year and those of you about to become 1Ls?

  1. Don’t forget that you are writing for your reader, and that reader wants a conclusion that advises them on how to proceed (this is excellent advice for exam-taking as well).  Your LRW faculty gave you the best writing grounding they could, and now it’s up to you to apply their teaching to all of your writing.
    1. Put yourself in your reader’s shoes.
    2. What does that reader need to know in order to answer that question?
    3. What do they already know?
    4. What information do they still lack?
    5. What questions might they still have?
    6. And, most importantly, what would be the best outcome for this reader/person (those results, again)?
  2. Be conscious of the amount of time you are spending on research and learn how to be an efficient and productive researcher while you are in law school.
    1. At a minimum, you need to be able to find and update constitutional provisions, statutes, regulations, and cases.
    2. More importantly, you need to determine effectively and quickly which portions of those primary resources affect your clients’ rights and obligations.
    3. If  either A. or B. above are difficult for you, consider taking an Advanced Legal Research class taught by one of our Barry law librarians.  Consult with a fellow student you trust who’s taken an ALR class to see if it might benefit you in the future.
  3. Practice, practice, practice.
    1. The practice of law doesn’t begin when you hit your legal employer’s door.  It starts now!  Everything you are introduced to in one class or that is reinforced in another law school course isn’t just about “learning for an exam.”
    2. Students learn by doing.  Work through the problems that your professors assign at the end of a reading section. Work through a series of hypos to better understand what you’ve read. Take a clinical course.  Engage and struggle with the material now, because other professionals already in practice will expect that of you, and so will your clients.
  4. Plan your professional development path now and set realistic goals now and into the future.
    1. Find people you trust and seek their constructive feedback on your work product.  Put that constructive criticism to work for you.
    2. Find a mentor to help guide you as you enter the profession and as you grow as a professional.
    3. Develop a well-rounded professional life by considering how to
      1. reflect on yourself, reflect on what you see in others that you want to emulate, and reflect on those projects and areas of law that really got your creative juices flowing.
      2. plan – both for the project that is due in a few weeks and for how to achieve your professional goals in the next 0-5 years.
      3. be flexible and welcome the unexpected.  The unexpected may be hard, but may also present welcome future opportunities.
      4. develop meaningful relationships by using your emotional intelligence in the workplace (see one of my past columns on this topic).
      5. and, get involved since a new attorney can’t build a reputation for excellence by being passive.

This may not be a formula for success for everyone, and everything may not apply to each law student, but just the fact that you read about the skills you need to develop is a great first step!

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