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January 09, 2007

The Joy of Teaching

Tonight was the first class of my course, "Law Office Management." ( I can't seem to get the school to change the title to what it is "How to Hang A Shingle Right Out of Law School"...even seven years later! ) But it never fails to excite me when I see the subtle shifting in the seats, the raised eyebrow, the hope when I tell my students, "when you finish this class you will have an actual uniquely customized functional two year business plan to help you start your own legal practice right out of law school." 

I've done this long enough to know some students sign up because the time slot is convenient; some because it satisfies credits.  Others sign up because they think it is a gut course and are looking for an easy "A."  Sorry, folks, not happening.  And yet each year more and more seek the class out and arrange their schedules around my class because they've heard what it is really about.....a game plan for entrepreneurship.

Sometimes I feel like I'm part of the underground.  One student last year actually said to me, "Does the school know what you are teaching?  I'm surprised they've let you out of your cage!"  I considered that the ultimate compliment. Imagine, someone not only telling them they can be their own boss right out of law school but encouraging it?

The thing I rail against is the lack of recognition by the legal community overall to support the very real desire law students feel to create their own destiny.  One student told me today he feels compelled to be an entrepreneur because it is in his blood.  His grandfather came over from Poland with $11.00 in his pocket and built a $25 million dollar construction company.  If an immigrant combatting language barriers and prejudice can build an empire, why can't an educated law student start his own legal practice?

What's worse, another student told me today that when she went to Career Counseling and told of her ambitions to start her own practice they so thoroughly disabused her of her dream she will never go back to their office.  This is right up there with one of my students telling me that during her exit interview last year she told Career Counseling as soon as she passed the bar she was going to open her own practice and the counselor actually rolled her eyes and said, "whatever."

But my all-time favorite story is the law student who was already employed in the IP firm she wanted to be working for and training in the area of law she wanted to continue practicing in.  She went to the Career Counseling Office for advice on other options, never telling them she was already employed.  She was told because she got a "C" in a first year class they would be unable to help her get a job!

First, I know absolutely no one in the Career Counseling Office at the Law School.  And I have to believe they are very good at what they do...when it comes to helping the top tier find employment. But as one student said to me tonight, "Aren't the counselors there to help all the students whether or not they are in the top third?"  I agree.  And I'm quite sure this "prejudice" is common in all law schools. Maybe a little open-mindeness and sensitivity training would be a good idea. Or better yet, let there be a specific counselor who believes in entrepreneurship available to encourage and guide these students.

So, the door to the forbidden has been cracked open for these students.  It will be very exciting to see the transformation as the semester progresses.

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» Class Is In Session from Chuck Newton
Susan Cartier Liebel, the guru of going solo and starting a practice out of law school, has begun a new class on the subject at Quinnipiac School of Law. Even though she cannot get the Law School to give the course the more properly title How to Hang A... [Read More]

Comments

Peter Olson

Susan, I applaud your law school's efforts. I wince at how unprepared I was to start a solo practice two years out of school and frankly remain to this day...particularly on the business side of the practice.

What I find most sad is simply that law schools are ignoring the facts that some 70+% of lawyers are solo/small firm. That's just plain arrogance or ignorance or both.

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