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Two Questions To Practice By

I just read an article about the varied experiences of Summer Associates (http://www.lawschool.com/outings.htm).  It reminded of the questions I generally heard from my classmates and other law students before choosing where to spend the summer.  The two most common where: (1) What am I getting paid?; and (2) Where am I going (meaning a well-known firm, a popular location, etc.).  While these are fair questions, especially with law school debt weighing heavily on most law students' shoulders, I think there are two more appropriate questions, especially when looking to the long-term practice of law. 

The first is: What am I getting?, with an emphasis on seeking legal experience, including research, original drafting, client interaction, courtroom exposure, etc.  I have always heard the money will come if you are great at what you do.  So why should a law student jump at the money and sacrifice his/her long-term ability to become great?  That's not to say you can't become great at a major firm, because you can, it just means that greatness comes from experience in this profession.  I have yet to meet a Summer Associate or law clerk getting the kind of experience I am getting at a start-up law firm with one founding partner.  However, my position may be unique considering I am working with the GAL : ).

The second question is: Why am I going?  Instead of focusing on where, as I almost did, I am now focusing more than ever on why.  This second question contains subquestions, so to speak, such as: Why do you want to practice a particular kind of law?; Why am I going to this firm/government position/etc.; Why am I going to this city?  Many law students seek the mega-firm with a large upfront payoff.  However, sometimes it is those who can delay pleasure, or those who were not in the position to capture such an opportunity, that end up the happiest.  Not to mention, the latter also tend to find the success that the former thought they had captured when following the footsteps of so many Summer Associates before them.  It all comes down to evaluating why before you make that initial move.

One final thought, it seems odd to me that the notorious large firm Summer Associate life entails extravagant lunches, outings, after-work cocktails, etc.  Work time is spent doing fun and nights and weekends can be spent doing work, especially when the real associate life kicks in.  Wouldn't you rather work when your supposed to and spend that time at the ballpark or the restaurant or the retreat with the ones that helped get you to where you are, namely your friends and family?  I know I would.  The best of both worlds does exist, and I think I am living in it this summer.  You just have look hard and constantly ask why are you going where you are going.

Comments

RJON@HowToMakeItRain.com

I have had the opportunity to work with many hundreds of lawyers including some extremely successful Rainmakers. Lawyers who literally make more money than they know what to do with.

I've also had the chance to help others who were struggling each month to make payroll. Brilliant lawyers who could think through a problem like a hot knife through butter, but they couldn't ever seem to get traction in their careers.

Brilliant, not-so-brilliant. Good looking, not so good looking. Tall, short. Fat, thin. Male, female. Black, white or blue...

The best, in fact the only predictor I've found to be reliable concerning how successful a lawyer is going to be in the long-run is the degree to which their career, and the law firm business they build or associate with is in alignment with all three of their goals: Financial; Social & Professional.

Lawyers (young & old) who go for the money without considering the other three pillars, often end up flat on their asses later-on down the road.

Back when I used to do onsite consulting, I had more than one occasion to sit in a million-dollar office with the doors tighly shut as a rich lawyer cried about having no-one to share it with.

In fact, that was one of the motivations why I developed my How To Market A Small Law Firm audio cd in the first place: To show more lawyers than I could work with personally, or who could afford my daily rates, how to be a more successful Rainmaker & still have a life.

Glib Gurl

Here I was thinking that was a real comment . . . oh well. That's one of the better bits of spam I've read. Great post - very true!

Eh Nonymous

Glib Gurl: I agree. had that been a real comment, that would have been moving and pertinent. As it is, it's laughable - the idjit didn't even code the link right. Loser! If you were as good at comment-spam as you apparently are at teaching whiny rich lawyers how to make rain (hint: dance!) then you'd be much more successful.

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