Thursday, March 8, 2018

Four key practice skills they don't teach you in law school

Law school may give you the analytical skills you need for practice but most of what you really need to know to succeed professionally is learned on the job.  In this column from the Penn. based Legal Intelligencer, guest commentator Raphael Castro, a fourth year associate with a Philadelphia law firm, offers advice about some of the key skills he's discovered you need for success in practice that aren't found in the typical law school course catalog: 

  • Prepare like your professor is going to call on you every time (perhaps a corollary to that rule is something I've always told my own students:  "If you think [whatever assignment we're working on at the time] is stressful, wait until you get into practice where every single project feels like a final exam and it's do or die").
  • It's a small world - so consider your reputation and interactions with every colleague. Act dishonorably or cause others to distrust you and you can assume it'll come back to bite you.
  • Related to the above, in law practice as in most of life, good interpersonal skills are king.
  • Get comfortable with and develop your public speaking skills.

Raphael doesn't mention this but my own thought is that, with respect to item # 1, legal educators are way too focused on making law school less stressful for students and not focused enough on stealing students for the stresses they will inevitably encounter in practice. It is indeed a stressful career and rightly so - attorneys are responsible for helping clients with some of the most challenging and intractable problems they will ever face. Lawyers are also fiduciaries when it comes to their clients which means putting service before self.  In other words, if you can't stand the heat, maybe you shouldn't go work in a kitchen. Go read Raphael's column here.


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