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March 15, 2007

A Top Tier Law School's Definition of Private Practice

This little gem came from a top tier law school who prides itself on placing 92% of its graduating class within 6 - 9 months:

Private Practice

Large & Mid-Size Firms: Clients of large firms tend to be large organizations themselves, and the firms provide for most of their varied legal needs involving many practice areas. Most large firms are organized into practice area departments to accommodate this diversity of practice.

Small Firms: Small firms tend either: to have individuals as clients for whom they provide a variety of legal services, to practice in the personal injury area where relationships are formed with individuals, or to limit their practice to a specific area of law.

Solo Practice: Clients of solo practioners tend to be individuals and the practioners tend to be generalists or practice in the personal injury area. It is difficult for someone to establish a solo practice immediately upon graduation from law school.

Once a student gets past these sweeping generalizations which are clearly prejudicial and are statements from people who have never been a solo practitioner or only following their marching orders which is to make sure they keep their placement numbers up, what resources do they offer a student who says, "I want to open my own practice."  Stare dumbly? Or incredulously? Probably both.

I just want to know who wrote their copy.


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Greg Kelly

That could easily have been written by any counselor in the career services office, administrator, or professor of my former law school. I can't understand how "professionals" such as these can be so ignorant. And let's not even start with fellow students, although it's easier to excuse their ignorance because of the indoctrination they have had at the hands of the people above.

My response to that little gem would be to quote an Adam Sandler movie: "We are now all dumber for having heard that. I award you no points and may God have mercy on your soul."

- Greg

Edward Wiest

As a alumnus of a "first tier" school (you can look me up) who drifted cluelessly from BigLaw to solo practice, I completely agree that law schools fail students (as they have since my time in the late 1970's) by omitting from the course of study any meaningful introduction to the practice management, business development or client relationship skills all lawyers who hope to serve paying clients must possess.

I would suggest, however, that the cluelessness of the author of the piece that you cite does not come from personal or institutional prejudice against solo practice but from a general failure to understand the difficulties new lawyers face in any area of practice. It is difficult for a newly licensed lawyer to start as a solo practitioner without an existing client base or the cushion of cash flow and benefits a Biglaw "job" provides. (That was my experience when I found myself on my own 18 years out.) What I did not realize in law school and I still don't believe placement offices acknowledge is how "difficult" survival at Biglaw can be under the best of circustances (as 40+ soon to be ex-lawyers at Mayer, Brown are now learning). It would be a big step forward if career services offices would just let even the "best" students of the "top" schools know that it takes more than academic honors to succeed in any sector of the law business.

Richard A Schoor MD FACS

That could easily have been written by someone in my medical school.

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