Available in both video and text format for your convenience
Hello again. It's May. Graduation is approaching. This is my last blogcast of the school year. What would you expect me to do other than to congratulate those of you who will receive your JDs next week, and to offer some sage advice? So here are my top 10 tips:
1. Be flexible in your job search. I've said this many times before- you will find your dream job during your professional journey, but not necessarily at the beginning. Your interest, your opportunities will change over time. I left law school wanting to be a government lawyer; look where I am today.
2. Understand that you are a problem-solver. Almost all clients detest the stress and cost of litigation. They want to solve a dispute or make money in a deal. That is something different than winning a lawsuit. Help your clients achieve their objective, not your own.
3. Remember that it's about client service. Clients deserve and expect lawyers who are responsive, return their phone calls, provide candid advice, and who report bad news immediately. Most often, it's the level of service that's more important than the outcome.
4. Learn the business of law. If you go into private practice, it's imperative that you know and understand early the financial side, and how it will impact important decisions about who you represent and on what terms. You will have to learn to say "no" to some potential clients. Even in government or legal service work, you must be efficient in your use of limited resources.
5. Explore the law outside of your comfort zone. Part of being a life-long learner is dabbling in new areas. I spent a few years litigating asbestos and lead paint claims. I didn't particularly enjoy the substantive area, but I loved meeting and working with new lawyers I met along the way.
6. Stay connected with your classmates. They will be a ready source of ideas and perhaps a client or two.
7. Treat everyone you encounter fairly and with respect. It's the right thing to do. The people you encounter may someday be clients. I once supervised a paralegal who left our law firm to go to law school, and then later became an in-house corporate lawyer and client. So as someone once said "Be careful about the feet you step on today, they may be connected to the buttocks you have to kiss tomorrow!"
8. Be global. Any business person would tell you that the marketplace is global. But beyond international transactions, it's important to simply understand that America is no longer the exclusive center of world power, and that most people around the world do things differently, some perhaps better than we do. So travel abroad, and if you have the time and energy, learn another language.
9. Be a lawyer leader outside of the law. This is not about being active in the organized bar, but about being a leader in other non-profit areas in which you have a passion. It could be in the arts, or theater, or in health care, or prison outreach. Be a leader in a boardroom where you are the only lawyer present.
10. Bring your kids to work. If you are fortunate to have children, bring them to work or on a business trip. Let them see how hard you work, and open their eyes to a future as a professional.
To the class of 2009, congratulations, good luck on the bar exam, and best wishes on the journey ahead.