Sunday, February 12, 2006

Learnin'

So the other day I was talking to this lawyer about jobs. He’s a partner in a mid-size firm (70-80 lawyers) with offices around the state. (Unfortunately it wasn’t an interview; it was more of a networking thing.)

Anyway, I asked him what it’s like for first-year associates here. Are they expected to sink or swim? Does the firm have a training program? How much responsibility does a first-year associate have? His answer was that I had better not ask a prospective employer about training programs because law firms expect you to learn how to practice law while in law school.

Um, what?

Before law school, you learn that law school will teach you how to think. You get to law school having no idea what that means. Then in law school, all we hear is that this is not a trade school; we’re learning how to think like lawyers, not how to practice law. The first law job is where you learn how to actually be a lawyer.

At this school, there are no clinical requirements and few clinical opportunities. Other law schools have a much heavier clinical component than this one does. I wonder if students at those schools graduate with more real-world lawyer skills?

Granted, this partner I talked to said he’s not involved in the recruiting or hiring process and he never has first-year associates working for him, so maybe he’s out of touch. So I sure hope he’s in the minority here because even though I’m learning things, and I’m even working in a small firm and sort of, a little bit, kind of learning what lawyers do, I don’t think law school is actually teaching me to be a lawyer.

14 Comments:

At 11:12 AM, Anonymous kristine said...

Every attorney I've spoken to, whether in an actual interview or at a networking event, has touted their first-year (and summer) associate training programs. They know we don't learn how to practice! One guy even said they have little mini-training events, like half-an-hour with a partner or senior associate, to go over things like constructing pleadings, and taking depositions.

This guy (though I am sure he is a fine attorney) has no idea what he's talking about.

 
At 12:36 PM, Blogger Bricklayer said...

If you think about it, only the BigLaw firms can afford to develop extensive training programs.

As I've been shopping for small and mid-sized firm jobs in Broward and Dade, the more I keep hearing that UM Law grads have no practical training as compared to the other Florida law schools. In Broward and Palm Beach they will hire Nova grads over Miami grads in a heartbeat.

I am convinced the problem is the elitist professors at UM Law. They refuse to accept that we aren't like them. We are not ashamed of coming from a law school that balances theory with practice.

Among us 3L's the resentment towards what we got for our money is pretty high. I've heard more than a few people say that it will be highly unlikely that they will make any alumni donations until changes are made. The professors' best response is that we should have known what UM was coming in, but how can pre-1Ls fully appreciate what they're getting into? We put our trust in them to balance our education with theory and practice, and they failed to deliver.

Shame on them.

 
At 12:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No matter how many times, or in what forum he says it, I still don't understand what exactly Brick's problem with UM is. I read over and over about people wanting more practical and less theory. Huh?

That's what seminars and workshops are for. I know from personal experience that there are elective classes available for people who want to learn how to fill out forms (Real Estate Transactions W/S), draft business documents (Business Planning Sem.), draft pleadings (Fed. Crim. Practice W/S), litigate (litigation skills and a clinical), or prepare estate planning documents (granted, the Adv. T&E W/S isn't being taught this year, I still think the documents I handed in as my final in that class would rival the more complex plans coming from a big firm).

What exactly is it that you people want? That is directed more toward Bricks than Some Guy, as it is Bricks who does little more than complain about UM any chance he gets.

Do people actually want a class where the professor talks through the literal step by step process of, say, filing a civil complaint? I can get that in ten minutes on the internet and a call to the clerk's office. And what jurisdiction should these classes be taught in? A large portion of UM grads have no intention of staying in this hell hole one day longer than necessary. Do you think the school should teach 50 different classes on how to write a contract in different states? Why waste law school time on something so basic? Most reasonably intelligent people will learn this on their own in the first month on the job, either through firm training or self-study. Even if Nova grads have some practical knowlege on day one, by day 30, I would be very suprised if the UM grad wasn't at the same level or higher than the Nova person. You want to know why? Because the UM grad understands why, not just how.

Why exactly are the elitest professors out to get you Bricks? That is what you think, right? It sure seems to be the theme of most of your writings. If you think you are so far above the institution itself, why didn't you transfer after a year? A person of your, often invoked, intellectual depth surely wouldn't have had any trouble getting in somewhere else. I'm sure Harvard or Yale have lots of practical skill classes and not too many theory classes. Or better yet, why not Nova? Then you wouldn't have any trouble finding a job at all.

 
At 9:56 AM, Blogger Bricklayer said...

That response proves my point. Your concern for the customer is worse than the blogger's experience with Dell.

The original blogger related an experience where a potential employer balked at a lack of practical skills, and I report the same. And from your ivory tower you shout down declaring us blasphemers, that indeed the world is flat.

If you had any clue what student life at UM is really like, you'd know that often scheduling demands make integrating one of just a handful of "practical" workshops an impossibility. Often they aren't really taught by experienced practitioners, don't meet regularly, and don't involve work. For example, reportedly Real Estate Transactions consists of a young adjunct who literally reads an outline to the class.

LitSkills, the only beacon of hope, demands clinical work be done for government agencies and once the agency is chosen the student is locked in. Some students credit the experience as their best in law school, others as the worst.

Instead of snubbing your nose at us, I think you ought to be genuinely concerned when top students are having trouble finding jobs in a relatively good market.

Don't you get it? I played your game. I'm near the top of the class, I've booked classes, I made all the rediculous arguments you guys wanted on exams. But unless I want to sign my life away to BigLaw, I'm getting creamed in the small-mid firm market by students from schools that integrated practical training into their programs.

For example, Nova offers a similar lit skills program but doesn't limit students to government agencies. They CAN file a real complaint, understand motion practice, and know which form to use when. You vastly understate the time and expense required to climb the practical learning curve, and small and mid-size firms are not willing to pay me to learn on their dime. They don't want us proselytizing the "whys" to them and their clients at this point. They want us to get shit done.

Employers don't look at things the way you do. At this stage they aren't hiring us to do theoretical appellate work or write law review articles. They want us to come in and hit the ground running, not waste valuable staff time and resources on answering our stupid questions.

As much as you complain about the US government on your blog, have I ever told you take your wife and kids and move to England? I find your arguments weak and your politics juvenile, but I recognize that cranks like you are healthy to the process.

Here I am raising concerns that nobody in the administration seems to care about, and you'd prefer students like me transfer to higher ranked schools rather than stick around and make things better. Unlike you, I don't think South Florida is a "hell hole". Maybe if you crawled out of your Coral Gables cocoon from time to time you'd see that South Florida is a vibrant community worthy of allegience. I stayed after 1L because this is where I live, this is where I'll stay, and this is the community I want to contribute to. I don't believe in playing the ranking game at the expense of a local law school. Plus I hate the cold.

I can't wait until Harvard or Yale finally recognizes your purported true worth to a law school community and offers you enough to abandon us for greener pastures. Why do you stay at a school that produces so few appellate clerks, where a student is more likely to be struck by lightning than clerk for the Supreme Court?

South Florida is now inundated with law schools that integrate your dreaded "trade school" approach to some degree. If UM doesn't wake up and smell its unemployed grads, our reputation will get worse not better.

 
At 9:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here, here. Bricks should take his 2.9 GPA and get lost! No one wants to read his dumb posts.

Nova v. UM??? If this were true, because of "practical skills" a firm would hire a Nova grad over ALL of the top-100 law schools. Poor Harvard and Stanford grads... don't have a chance if a Nova grad is on the scene. please.

 
At 10:07 AM, Blogger some guy said...

Bricklayer, why is your response directed at the professor when the comment is anonymous? Am I missing something?

 
At 10:17 AM, Blogger Bricklayer said...

Harvard & Stanford grads are added to firms not only because they are reputedly smart, but because having those pedigrees adds to the firm's ability to market itself. Clients say "wow" when they see attorney profiles from schools like that.

Clients don't say "wow" when they see UM, UF, Nova, etc.. Therefore, a UM or Nova grad needs to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

I don't know why the last poster is so shocked that Nova grads compete well against UM grads. Nova grads are well situated in South Florida, in law firms and political offices.

I think you have drunk too much orange and green Kool-Aid. Cognitive dissonance over having spent so much money on a second tier school.

Some Guy- I apologize to the professor I suspect wrote as anonymous if it isn't who I've assumed it is. But I think we both know who it is. The arguments are identical to debates that took place on his blog about a year ago.

 
At 10:27 AM, Blogger Bricklayer said...

Yes, I realize upon more careful reading of anonymous' post that it is probably not who I thought it was. I therefore apologize to he who knows who he is personally. Thanks for catching my mistake, some guy.

In my defense, their views were
remarkably similar.

http://www.discourse.net/archives/2004/11/there_is_hope_for_us_all.html

 
At 11:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Bricklayer has a point, somewhat, but he misses the mark a bit.

Harvard, Stanford, Yale, etc, are good to have on your firms website. And, sure, not all of those students are smart, but many are. If you had to pick a student blindly, without knowing grades, experience, etc... you'd probably do best to pick a top-10 over a low 100. That said, I think Miami is trying to be something it can't quite be, and still give its students the advantage they need.

Knocking students from highly ranked schools just looks small and sour. Maybe students should take it on their own to get the exposure they seek. Talk to a prof about taking some cases on your own from a legal aid clinic w/ the prof overseeing you. Get a few students involved and approach a prof.

 
At 12:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As the original Anon, I am indeed not who you thought I was.

I'm in no ivory tower. I'm a 3L at UM and I just have trouble understanding what all of the complaints are about. I did a clinical. So what that is was for a government agency? Do you really think a private entity is going to let a law student represent paying clients in court?

"If you had any clue what student life at UM is really like"--Ha, I think I addressed that one already. And scheduling? In two years, I have taken all but one of the practical course I cited as examples (and the one I didn't was because I wasn't interested, not because I couldn't)

I don't know what Prof. F. ever did to you, but your meanspirited attacks are hard to understand. I wrote a comment in response to you because, as a student, I think many of the things you say on your blog and through comments on others devalues UM in the eyes of outsiders. As someone trying to find work out of state, some diatribe you have written is likely to come up on an employer's search about UM and give the wrong impression. I want people to know that just because Bricks is so vocal about UM, there are students out there that are satisfied with the school. Complaints about a lack of practical courses are something that demand a response because there are more than a few people that would disagree. For example, people that participate in lit skills, a lit skills clinical, the bankruptcy clinic, the children and youth law clininc, or those that get a part-time, paying job. I don't think any of those people would complain that employers don't think they have practical skills.

If you feel like you are graduating without any practical skills, maybe you should look at what you chose to do with law school rather than blaming the school itself. People like me knew how to plan their courses in a way that allowed practical to mix with theory in a very satisfying way.

 
At 12:59 PM, Blogger Bricklayer said...

Let's table this for now, and engage in a lively debate later...I have class all afternoon and need to get a few things done this week. I'll revive the issue on my blog next week or so, it is an important one for all of us.

In parting, I think we both want what's best for UM Law but have different ideas about what that is and how to achieve it. As far as Prof. F goes I admitted my mistake but admit that I would have responded the same if it were indeed he that had posted your post. Despite its not being him (or was it?) some of your post was equally annoying but we'll discuss that later.

 
At 1:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Brick much of the time. That said, I'm shocked to hear that Nova grads beat UM at getting jobs - barely half of Nova grads even pass the bar. Fewer of their grads have jobs at graduation, and they get paid a lot less too.

So much drama! Almost like high school, but this time it's about getting a job, not about Kelly Kapowski.

 
At 2:04 PM, Blogger some guy said...

That's a good point. If 80 percent of UM grads pass the bar in this state but only 50-some percent of nova grades pass it, how are they getting all the jobs?

In any case, just so I don't get lumped in with Bricklayer, let me say that I'm not nearly as bitter, jaded and cynical about this place as he is. Yes, I wish there was more of a practical component, or I wish I had understood the ramifications of little practical work before I decided to come here. And yes, I am having trouble getting a job, but I do not blame the school for my problem. (Not yet, anyway...)

 
At 11:00 AM, Anonymous Michael Froomkin said...

A friend was kind enough to direct me to the comments on this post. (Since I read most blogs via a newsreader, I don't usually read the comments on most posts unless I'm adding one of my own, and I hadn't read these.)

For the record, one of the many ways 'Bricklayer' and I differ, is that I sign my name to my writing. And indeed, I have no idea who he is or what grade I may have given him.

 

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