Jump to content

Things you wished Law school taught


Stugglesarereal
 Share

Recommended Posts

Stugglesarereal
  • Law Student

Hello everyone,

I was hoping to get a quick feedback about what you wished your law school would have taught you before you graduated and were sent into the world of practice. Just trying to see if there are schools out there that have done something different that helped you become better in the field. 

 

thanks!

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

CleanHands
  • Lawyer

To answer your question would require covering far too much ground; very little that is taught in law school is practical and useful and almost nothing encountered in practice is taught even vaguely or indirectly in law school.

The overwhelming majority of law school material is substantive law and the overwhelming majority of information you need to know in practice is procedural (I'm sure this varies to an extent by practice area but I hold to this sentiment generally). And when you do need to know substantive law in practice, it's usually way more specific and narrow than the way the subject matter was covered in law school, and memories fade, and you need to look it all up from scratch anyways.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Garfield
  • Articling Student

I don’t know the words to describe this but.. the business behind running a law firm (bigger firms to sole practice), from big picture (billable hours structure vs other structures, I don’t even know what the others are) to small picture (collecting A/R regularly enough, legal aid certificates)

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

KOMODO
  • Lawyer

I wish they taught more about LawPro and Excess Insurance. If you make a mistake and then leave your place of employment, and the mistake is discovered five years later, what kind of coverage do you have? What obligations does your old firm have to you? What about how older partners used to put their houses in their lower earning spouses' (wives') names in case of a lawsuit catastrophe, is that still worth thinking about? I keep meaning to look into this stuff in case I'm ever faced with it, but never seem to find the time...

And I wish there was more emphasis on point first writing. If I receive a draft email or memo from a student and their conclusion isn't clear in the first 3-5 lines, I find that irritating.

And I suppose it would be nice to have some instruction on de-escalating conflict, dealing with difficult personalities both in your workplace and as clients or opposing counsel, etc.

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Pecan Boy
  • Law Student
27 minutes ago, KOMODO said:

And I wish there was more emphasis on point first writing. If I receive a draft email or memo from a student and their conclusion isn't clear in the first 3-5 lines, I find that irritating.

I gotta tell ya, there is a LOT of emphasis on point-first writing in law school as it is. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

KOMODO
  • Lawyer

Maybe it depends on the school? Or people just aren't paying attention? Or they just forget about it in practice? Because there are a LOT of deliverables from juniors and students that follow this pattern: summarize the issue; review relevant info or case law to date; discuss relevant examples; weigh competing options; deliver conclusion. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

epeeist
  • Lawyer
1 hour ago, KOMODO said:

I wish they taught more about LawPro and Excess Insurance. If you make a mistake and then leave your place of employment, and the mistake is discovered five years later, what kind of coverage do you have? What obligations does your old firm have to you? What about how older partners used to put their houses in their lower earning spouses' (wives') names in case of a lawsuit catastrophe, is that still worth thinking about? I keep meaning to look into this stuff in case I'm ever faced with it, but never seem to find the time...

And I wish there was more emphasis on point first writing. If I receive a draft email or memo from a student and their conclusion isn't clear in the first 3-5 lines, I find that irritating.

And I suppose it would be nice to have some instruction on de-escalating conflict, dealing with difficult personalities both in your workplace and as clients or opposing counsel, etc.

[emphasis added]

QFT. I'd add, subject to specific client or more senior lawyer expectations, always put file number in subject line. If you're replying to someone else's email, add the file number.

I'm old enough to have written most exams by hand, and I did learn this in law school - leaving space at the beginning of my answer so that when I was done with the analysis, I could put the brief version of my answer at the beginning.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

realpseudonym
  • Lawyer
2 hours ago, KOMODO said:

Maybe it depends on the school? Or people just aren't paying attention? Or they just forget about it in practice? Because there are a LOT of deliverables from juniors and students that follow this pattern: summarize the issue; review relevant info or case law to date; discuss relevant examples; weigh competing options; deliver conclusion. 

They definitely taught point-first when I was in school. At least for me, the issue was that there wasn’t all that much writing in law school, at least compared to practice and undergrad. A few exams a semester, a handful of assignments, and a couple of papers. There wasn’t really enough repetition for the writing advice to get engrained as habit. So while I knew some lessons in the abstract after graduation, it was natural to fall back on my pre law school writing style. 

It was really articling and practice where my habits formed, as I now write constantly. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

epeeist
  • Lawyer
4 minutes ago, realpseudonym said:

They definitely taught point-first when I was in school. At least for me, the issue was that there wasn’t all that much writing in law school, at least compared to practice and undergrad. A few exams a semester, a handful of assignments, and a couple of papers. There wasn’t really enough repetition for the writing advice to get engrained as habit. So while I knew some lessons in the abstract after graduation, it was natural to fall back on my pre law school writing style. 

It was really articling and practice where my habits formed, as I now write constantly. 

TL;DR: I'm reminded, in law school your written answers are generally intended to show you understand the issues and can analyze everything, not just reach a conclusion. But in practice, if there's a quick answer, don't spend a lot of time doing more (beyond checking still good law etc.!) without checking that's what's wanted (or if you're lawyer in charge, deciding yourself that it's warranted).

Sometimes there's e.g. a SCC or CA case on point that's binding and determinative of the issue in question. So (when reporting to a more senior lawyer) most would want (this is based on combining long-ago memory with more recent complaints by other lawyers) the quick "[name of case] [link or attachment perhaps]" appears to be determinative, do you want me to do more research?". Which sometimes they did. But sometimes all they wanted or needed was the quick answer, and instead they got a 10-page summary of the legal developments and cases leading up to the SCC or CA case, that took the person 8 billable hours, none of which is chargeable because they didn't want or need that.

And for some lawyers, they wanted an analysis of the leading case. Others honestly expressed the view, they knew so much more than the articling student, all they wanted was one line telling them the leading case and they'd read it themselves, anything the student did to explain or summarize the case was in their view wasted time.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wish law schools would send their students - even over TEAMS - into a busy bail court for a full day.

There is SO MUCH to knowing how a courtroom runs. Knowing the tests that get applied. Knowing what phrases the lawyer use. Knowing how the Crown presents the facts and how the defence disputes them. Knowing how fast things can move. Knowing how accused people act and react when their liberty is at stake. Seeing where the clerk sits and what he says. Seeing where the sheriff is and what she does. Getting a sense of the bench.

If Criminal Law 100 did a single day field trip to a busy courthouse students would pick up so much. It's one thing to study the law. It's another to watch it unfold in front of you. Connecting the textbook to the reality is a link most schools never help you make, aside from those lucky few who get to do some clinical work. Moots don't cut it - practically speaking, an extreme minority of you will ever be on your feet before an appellate court. Better to run a mock criminal trial.

And I say this as someone who has spent many years watching students and new lawyers appear in court for the very first time, completely at a loss. The best of them are courteous and ask the lawyers around them for help on where to stand and what to say. The worst of them... well, arrogance is not a helpful trait when you can't back it up with experience is all I'll say for now.

  • Like 8
Link to comment
Share on other sites

realpseudonym
  • Lawyer
8 minutes ago, Hegdis said:

I wish law schools would send their students - even over TEAMS - into a busy bail court for a full day.

There is SO MUCH to knowing how a courtroom runs. Knowing the tests that get applied. Knowing what phrases the lawyer use. Knowing how the Crown presents the facts and how the defence disputes them. Knowing how fast things can move. Knowing how accused people act and react when their liberty is at stake. Seeing where the clerk sits and what he says. Seeing where the sheriff is and what she does. Getting a sense of the bench.

If Criminal Law 100 did a single day field trip to a busy courthouse students would pick up so much. It's one thing to study the law. It's another to watch it unfold in front of you. Connecting the textbook to the reality is a link most schools never help you make, aside from those lucky few who get to do some clinical work. Moots don't cut it - practically speaking, an extreme minority of you will ever be on your feet before an appellate court. Better to run a mock criminal trial.

And I say this as someone who has spent many years watching students and new lawyers appear in court for the very first time, completely at a loss. The best of them are courteous and ask the lawyers around them for help on where to stand and what to say. The worst of them... well, arrogance is not a helpful trait when you can't back it up with experience is all I'll say for now.

It would be good if schools facilitated this. Courts are open to the public, though. Students should go watch!

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

WhoKnows
  • Lawyer
49 minutes ago, epeeist said:

TL;DR: I'm reminded, in law school your written answers are generally intended to show you understand the issues and can analyze everything, not just reach a conclusion. But in practice, if there's a quick answer, don't spend a lot of time doing more...

It's this shift, from writing for people you pay to read your work, to writing for people who pay to read your work, that is most challenging, and something I need to remind myself of often. 

There's an excellent University of Chicago Writing School lecture on writing for value that's really stuck with me on this point. It's not just about being point first, it's about providing value through that point first writing. 

The lecture, for anyone interested:

https://youtu.be/aFwVf5a3pZM

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

LMP
  • Law Student
34 minutes ago, Hegdis said:

I wish law schools would send their students - even over TEAMS - into a busy bail court for a full day.

There is SO MUCH to knowing how a courtroom runs. Knowing the tests that get applied. Knowing what phrases the lawyer use. Knowing how the Crown presents the facts and how the defence disputes them. Knowing how fast things can move. Knowing how accused people act and react when their liberty is at stake. Seeing where the clerk sits and what he says. Seeing where the sheriff is and what she does. Getting a sense of the bench.

If Criminal Law 100 did a single day field trip to a busy courthouse students would pick up so much. It's one thing to study the law. It's another to watch it unfold in front of you. Connecting the textbook to the reality is a link most schools never help you make, aside from those lucky few who get to do some clinical work. Moots don't cut it - practically speaking, an extreme minority of you will ever be on your feet before an appellate court. Better to run a mock criminal trial.

And I say this as someone who has spent many years watching students and new lawyers appear in court for the very first time, completely at a loss. The best of them are courteous and ask the lawyers around them for help on where to stand and what to say. The worst of them... well, arrogance is not a helpful trait when you can't back it up with experience is all I'll say for now.

This is just one class at one school, but back when I was in 1L our crim prof actually made it mandatory to go watch a few hours of court proceedings and then write a brief paper on it. 

I think it had mixed results in terms of imparting knowledge but a lot that could likely be remedied by helping students pick which courts or sessions they attended and allowing for a more robust debrief. 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Renerik
  • Law Student
6 hours ago, Hegdis said:

Knowing what phrases the lawyer use

I've been lucky, I've gone to court 4 times in the first 2 months of law school.

My third time there, the judge mentions his brother to defence counsel. When I got out I told my clinic leader that their parents must be pretty proud having two sons who are judges. She just laughed.

Went for a fourth time today and a judge mentioned her sister -- another clinic leader explained it to me.

  • LOL 4
  • Nom! 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It’s a story I have told before but during my articles I was absolutely taken in by the LNU family. They seemed to show up on almost every file and they got away with everything. The police couldn’t seem to find this gigantic network of apparently related people who were into everything from fraud to murder to large scale drug dealing. 
 

It took me entirely too long to figure it out. 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Name Unknown

  • LOL 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

t3ctonics
  • Lawyer
1 minute ago, Hegdis said:

I wish law schools would send their students - even over TEAMS - into a busy bail court for a full day.

There is SO MUCH to knowing how a courtroom runs. Knowing the tests that get applied. Knowing what phrases the lawyer use. Knowing how the Crown presents the facts and how the defence disputes them. Knowing how fast things can move. Knowing how accused people act and react when their liberty is at stake. Seeing where the clerk sits and what he says. Seeing where the sheriff is and what she does. Getting a sense of the bench.

If Criminal Law 100 did a single day field trip to a busy courthouse students would pick up so much. It's one thing to study the law. It's another to watch it unfold in front of you. Connecting the textbook to the reality is a link most schools never help you make, aside from those lucky few who get to do some clinical work. Moots don't cut it - practically speaking, an extreme minority of you will ever be on your feet before an appellate court. Better to run a mock criminal trial.

And I say this as someone who has spent many years watching students and new lawyers appear in court for the very first time, completely at a loss. The best of them are courteous and ask the lawyers around them for help on where to stand and what to say. The worst of them... well, arrogance is not a helpful trait when you can't back it up with experience is all I'll say for now.

We did this in my first year at U of S and it was definitely a helpful look at the real world of litigation. It was for both Criminal and Torts, so we went to both criminal docket and civil chambers. The Criminal prof also arranged a class visit to the federal penitentiary in Prince Albert, including into the maximum security areas. That provided some meaningful perspective.

11 hours ago, Hegdis said:

It’s a story I have told before but during my articles I was absolutely taken in by the LNU family. They seemed to show up on almost every file and they got away with everything. The police couldn’t seem to find this gigantic network of apparently related people who were into everything from fraud to murder to large scale drug dealing. 

That's pure incompetence on the cops' part - most of them live together at NFA!

  • LOL 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
realpseudonym
  • Lawyer
On 11/8/2022 at 9:22 AM, KOMODO said:

And I wish there was more emphasis on point first writing. If I receive a draft email or memo from a student and their conclusion isn't clear in the first 3-5 lines, I find that irritating.

I am currently reading work from first and second year law students as part of a pro bono project, and none of these people have mastered point-first writing. On one of them, the key issue doesn't even get mentioned until seventh of twelve pages. This isn't short fiction! I don't want a surprise twist 60% of the way through a memo.

 

 

  • LOL 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
PzabbytheLawyer
  • Lawyer
On 11/18/2022 at 4:34 PM, realpseudonym said:

I am currently reading work from first and second year law students as part of a pro bono project, and none of these people have mastered point-first writing. On one of them, the key issue doesn't even get mentioned until seventh of twelve pages. This isn't short fiction! I don't want a surprise twist 60% of the way through a memo.

 

 

Plot twist - vavilov happened!

  • LOL 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.


×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By accessing this website, you agree to abide by our Terms of Use. YOU EXPRESSLY ACKNOWLEDGE AND AGREE THAT YOU WILL NOT CONSTRUE ANY POST ON THIS WEBSITE AS PROVIDING LEGAL ADVICE EVEN IF SUCH POST IS MADE BY A PERSON CLAIMING TO BE A LAWYER. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.