Moving Beyond Law School Theory

A little story about what lawyers really do… sort of

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I wasn’t a very good law student. I could give you lots of excuses about why that was, but at the end of the day it comes down to this: I just didn’t care that much.

Despite that, I was lucky enough to be taken in by a law firm as a part time clerk. At that point, I started to get it.

I started to get what being a lawyer was about.

I started to understand just how different what I was learning in University was from the real world practice of law.

And, even then, I started to wonder this: why aren’t people talking about this more?!

Because it seemed to me as a young lawyer that if (and it’s a significant size if) law school was supposed to train me to be a lawyer, then it was doing a fairly rubbish job.

So What was Missing?

Let’s gloss over the fact that the first pot of coffee I ever made at my first firm I re-used the coffee in the bottom of the plunger… (I didn’t drink coffee then, OK – so back off!).

Instead, what I noticed was just how hard it was.

At university, despite the complaints, the fact is that you have copious amounts of spare time.  As a young married man, still studying, my blissful understanding of the world was about to get turned on its head by the sheer amount of diligence that was required to serve a firm properly.

I also started to appreciate that the sheer commerce of law was totally absent from law school.  And when I say totally – I mean totally, completely, with not a tiny piece of it to be seen.  Reading cases and hearing lectures (if you bothered going) you got all excited about this clever analysis of the law that people had to embark on to arrive at the seminal decisions that now shaped our legal system.

What you didn’t learn, and didn’t appreciate, was that for each appeal, each trial, each decision – some poor schmuck had to foot the bill.  And the bills were not small.

There was no discussion of hourly rates, budgets, time recording, issuing bills, client complaints, costs agreements or how to do anything else that, in reality, forms a daily part of legal practice in the real world.

Moreover, once I got past those initial shocks, I realised that law school hadn’t actually prepared me for the rest of my career either.

I didn’t know how to build a network.

I didn’t know how to write a letter that wouldn’t get thrown in the bin.

I didn’t understand law firm politics.

I didn’t know how to work with other people effectively or develop others around me to get the best out of a team.

In short: I didn’t know how to be a lawyer.

Nothing had Changed

As I look around now, 15 years later, I realise that nothing has changed.

Actually I tell a lie, because something has changed (in Australia, at least) – the obliteration of articles of clerkship means that most young lawyers now get admitted to the profession with even less practical experience than we used to have.

Law students still graduate with no roadmap, no understanding of real world practice, and no real appreciation of what they are actually getting in to.

The result isn’t that they are terrible lawyers – the result is that they flounder.  They get a job (hopefully) and move into the profession assuming that at some point their career path will become clear.

But then, after days, weeks, months of the grind – they realise that they are actually just doing the same thing each day. They’re simply hoping that if they turn up enough, they will magically fall into the path that leads to success.

Which is (and let’s be honest here) a bit of a terrible plan when it comes to the next 40 years of your life.

Moving Beyond Law School Theory

In practice - moving beyond law school theoryThis one has been a long time coming for me, but for a while I’ve known that I had to try and contribute something to the solution, rather than just ranting about the problem.

So I wrote a book.

If you want to be challenged, then this book is for you.

If you want to think about what a legal career should look like, then this book is for you.

If you aren’t content to just coast until you retire or die, then this book is for you.

I’m extremely happy to say that it’s not a text book – it’s a story.

Learn more here: and pick up your copy today.

Happy lawyering!