As a private criminal defense attorney, I definitely look back on law school’s daily adventures with a different perspective. I’ve paneled together a few successful private attorneys and compiled this list of the five things (in no particular order) that we would have done differently, if we had to start law school all over again, with an eye for our future private law practice.
- I would have borrowed the minimum in student loans and picked up a part time job during the summer, in addition to my internships.
During my law school tenure, the government was not stingy with its allotment of student aid. After graduation, the money must be paid back. If you’re hanging your own shingle or working for a small firm, the last thing you want to see is a $2200.00 per month student loan payment.
Borrow only what you need and get a part time job that doesn’t interfere with academics.
- Search for internships that will get you involved with the clients’ relations.
As a private attorney, you need to know how to deal with your clients. They come in all shapes, sizes, and attitudes. I’d suggest finding a mentor who allows you to sit in on client intake and interviews, and lets you answer the firm’s phone.
Watch how your mentor deals with disgruntled clients and be honest with yourself about your ability to cope in similar situations. You can’t be prepared for it all, but at least you’ve tested the waters with over-the-top clients and hawkish opposing counsel.
- Become an expert.
Law school will teach you how to research and write. Find one or two areas of interest and learn everything you can about the topic. Search online for other experts and connect with them. Attend CLEs, workshops, conferences, and court hearings to watch cases in your area of interest.
You are more marketable to a firm if you have an expertise. And definitely make sure your area of interest is relevant to an economic gain for some firm in your desired work location.
- Become a better person.
Yes. This sounds generic, but do it. Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses, and experience (or lack thereof). Become a better, writer, speaker, friend, husband or wife.
Practice interacting with people. Law school is a diverse land. It will give you the opportunity to commune with individuals from totally different walks of life than your own. Take full advantage.
Again, private practice is a people game and you must be prepared to deal clients, judges, and other lawyers. Some are snobby and some are nice. Learn to deal with it all. Practice makes perfect.
- (#4 Continued and Expanded) Get to know and befriend as many fellow law students as possible.
Law school in many ways is just like high school. After the first few weeks, cliques start to form and everyone hangs out ONLY with their group of besties. Avoid this trap. Your law school classmates and professors could be your best sources for referrals in your private practice.
Become sincerely interested in all your classmates’ dreams and aspirations and help them as much as possible.
It’s a sad commentary when the guy in the corner of your law school class becomes a congressman, but you never took the time to engage him because he was not in your favorite five list of friends.
If you’re an aspiring or current law student and have questions, please feel free to contact me. I’ll do my best to answer your questions and point you in a good direction.