Advice

Everything about 22 Reasons Why Going to Law School Is the Best Decision You’ll Ever Make is sublime. The article touches the face of God by slapping Him and then giving Him the finger. Imagine a defense of law school so bereft of substance that it actually exposes the cynical lie driving the law school-industrial complex. Truly a work of beauty.

Presumably trying to newsjack the success of How To Get Away With Murder (inaccurate though it may be), the venerable Huffington Post unleashed these 22 Reasons Why Going to Law School Is the Best Decision You’ll Ever Make upon the world. If we were trying, I’m pretty sure we can come up with 165K+ why it’s a bad one.

The story is written by Madison Rutherford, a senior in Journalism at San Francisco State. What does she know about the value of a law degree? Not much actually. And she’s graciously offered to show us how little she knows about law school in reader-friendly listicle format!

Join us then, as we review all 22 terrible reasons to go to law school….

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Here’s the rule: Make it perfect; then send it to me.

(Yeah, yeah: That’s a slight overstatement, and there might be occasional exceptions to the rule. But let’s explain the rule first, for the benefit of the slow students. We’ll teach the exceptions to the advanced students next semester.)

The old guy — the curmudgeon who’s heading up the team — has been playing this game for decades. He’s been marking up crappy drafts since before you were born. He’s been receiving bad drafts at 6:30 p.m. on Friday (“so that you can have the weekend to look at it”) since God was young. That crotchety old coot really, really, really is not interested in seeing more bad work. (Put yourself in his shoes for a minute: Why would he possibly want to see your appalling first draft?)

Make it perfect; then give it to him. Why should he bother looking at anything other than your best work?

That’s the rule. Here’s a corollary . . .

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Keith Lee

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the need to push back against work. To make time for your life outside of the daily grind. That it’s important to be more than your job, both for your job and yourself.

But you do need to work. And when it is time to work, you need to work well. No complications, no distractions, no interruptions. To solely focus on the task at hand and nothing else.

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Ed Sohn

“Oh, you hate your job? Why didn’t you say so? There’s a support group for that. It’s called EVERYBODY and they meet at the bar.” – Drew Carey

You thought law school would be a good investment.  “Even if I don’t become a lawyer,” you proudly announced, “I will have many, many options.  A J.D., after all, is so valuable.”  When staring down a crushing mountain of student loans, you signed on the dotted line.  “Who can put a price on the doors a J.D. will open up for me?” If you knew this guy back then, you might have thought twice, but you didn’t.

Today, four, six, or ten years later, you spend late nights staring at your J.D. in its pristine frame, tears of rage streaming down your face.  “Where are MY DOORS??” you scream at it, sobbing into your sea of briefs or closing sets or brown liquor. Instead of doors, why are there enormous walls and sets of handcuffs (and not the good kind)? Why is it that you hate every job opening you might qualify for? I mean, you got your J.D., and you’re a grown-up lawyer who brilliantly catches typos.

I’m eight years out of law school and many of my classmates – including some of the gunnerest of gunners – are now in industries like legal technology, legal practice products, deal consulting, and law firm professional development. A director at a global fashion house in Latin America. A professional poker player. And my favorite: founding a service for renting gentlemen.

So how do you get from here to there?  How does a lawyer really stop being a practicing lawyer?

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Over the last few months, people have emailed me questions about my job search and for general advice. Unfortunately, I have not been able to answer all of them for various reasons. But now that my job search is on hold, I wanted to get back to everyone and possibly take this column into a new direction.

After the jump, I will answer some frequently asked questions about my future plans, and my difficulties in finding former solo practitioners willing to share their stories and impart their wisdom. I will also describe my plan to profile law firms that have hired underdog candidates with good results.

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Ricky Martin

Ed. note: Please welcome Susan Cartier Liebel of Solo Practice University, who will be writing for Above the Law about issues relevant to solo and small-firm practitioners.

I am a Gleek. I admit it. And never was I more Gleeky than the week Ricky Martin made his guest appearance on the show singing in Spanglish “I’m Sexy and I Know It” back in 2012.

But, that’s not really what this post is about. What it is about is what Ricky Martin’s character, the new Spanish teacher, said to his night students wanting to learn Spanish: “By 2030 more Americans will be speaking Spanish as their first language than English.”

I was a little surprised, too! That’s less than 18 years away from when the show aired in 2012. The stars then took turns singing songs in English and Spanish, the not-so-subtle message being we all need to hone our Spanish language skills….

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I had been planning to write an article on whether law firms should upgrade to Windows 8. That is, until last week, when Microsoft previewed their next operating system, Windows 10.

Not only did they announce it, they opened it up for a free preview version download. So I downloaded it, tested it, and took screenshots for you so I can walk through the pros and cons of upgrading to a new operating system.

The Windows 10 preview makes you go through a series of warnings where you acknowledge that you are going to be using an unstable, incomplete, buggy operating system. They do not recommend it for your main computer, just if you have an old laptop lying around.

So, Here’s Windows 10:

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Biglaw litigators may enjoy healthy pay, but they are also the target of some ribbing — particularly from the trial-lawyers bar. Anyone who has practiced litigation in Biglaw has heard that they are at best a “deposition lawyer,” better suited for churning out endless motions than for performing in front of a judge or jury. There is no doubt that for the majority of Biglaw litigators deposition experience is much easier to come by than trial experience. And while trials are definitely more intensive and fun, in my experience preparing for a critical deposition in a patent case is in a way more difficult. Unlike at trial, where nearly all of the direct and cross examinations are scripted, there is an element of the unknown at a deposition.

When it is an important witness, such as a technical or damages expert, everyone involved in the case knows that a deposition can be a make-or-break event. In fact, one of the things that makes preparing for trial testimony easier than preparing for a deposition is that when we prepare for trial, we rely heavily on prior testimony in the case. The best source for that prior testimony? Deposition transcripts. But going into a critical deposition, there is much more uncertainty. Everyone on the team worries if the witness will hold up. Does not matter how experienced the expert is, or how senior a business person. The wrong answer can doom a case.

While it may seem like deposition defense is a thankless job, it also provides a priceless opportunity to “hear” your opponent’s approach to important issues in the case. And that can be even more valuable than trying to extract information from a well-prepared witness at a deposition you end up taking at another point in the case.

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I recently had the good fortune to hear Ian McEwan (author of the wonderful Atonement, among other books) and Steven Pinker (a name I’d never heard before — yet more proof of my vast ignorance) discuss what makes good writing. McEwan is of course a gifted novelist; Pinker is a cognitive scientist who thinks about (among other things) how children acquire language skills. This made for an interesting discussion.

Both authors had recently published new books. If you don’t want to spring for the price of Pinker’s book, you can read the nutshell version of his thesis in his recent article in the Wall Street Journal.

I stole the title of this column from Pinker’s talk. Pinker says that many people blame the internet for the younger generation’s inability to write clearly. But if Twitter’s the culprit — “the kids these days can write only 140-character sentence fragments” — then the world should have been awash in pristine prose in the days before Twitter.

We were not, of course. Most writing sucked in the ’90s, too. And in the ’80s. And the ’70s. And, according to Pinker, people have been complaining about bad writing in literally every generation since the invention of the printing press.

So it would be nice — but wrong — to blame today’s bad writing on modern technology.

If technology isn’t the culprit, then what is? Pinker’s thesis is one that I suspect all good legal writers have known subconsciously all along. But it’s worth speaking the words out loud and thinking about how to use this concept to improve both your writing and the writing of those you edit. . . .

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Keith Lee

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”

— Aristotle

The trick is not holding other people accountable, but holding yourself accountable. It’s the central starting point of developing an appropriate professional mindset — recognizing that you are personally responsible for your actions and results (or lack thereof) delivered to clients.

You must strive to do the best you can in all situations. While it will make a difference in the quality of the work you produce, more importantly it makes a difference in you. Pushing yourself to deliver better work, better services, and better solutions will allow you to self-create new challenges and excitement in your job. It will help keep monotony and routine at bay.

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