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October 18, 2007

Another Harvard Law Grad Says, "Why Didn't Law School Teach Me How to Hang A Shingle?"

(UPDATE:  10/20/07 - Check out continued discussion at Defending People...)

I ran across this article in the Harvard Record from new lawyer Ryan Alexander who chose to hang a shingle with two others upon graduation in 2007.  He is now officially a partner in the law firm of Alexander, Odunze & Kang in Las Vegas, Nevada.

With a record of ninety on-campus-interviews this new lawyer comes to grips with the following:

I might hold a record for on-campus interviews at HLS, with an estimated ninety interviews over three years of OCI. I ate hundreds of chocolate pretzels and tried to get an associate position with BigLaw like most students. However, it took a long time to come to grips with my own personality and preferences and choose what I really wanted, to not suppress my feelings and take the $160,000 a year. Ultimately, my decision to start my own small firm came down to a "non-corporate" personality, desire for control and the income potential of being in business for myself.

The greatest confidence boost he received while in law school were the clinical programs as there was no law office management class.  In the past I have encouraged law students to get as much clinical experience as possible to get the 'feel' of actually being a lawyer, client contact, working open files with supervision and so much more.  Internships, externships, trial practice, negotiation, ADR.  This is what you need....while in law school.

I would never have had the confidence and experience to start a law firm right out of school without the clinical programs at HLS. I participated both in the transactional Recording Artists' Project / Community Enterprise Project ("CEP") at the Hale Dorr Center and the Criminal Justice Institute ("CJI"). CEP taught me how to file business entities and draft hefty music industry contracts, while CJI taught me courtroom advocacy, motions practice and how to build up a case. I strongly recommend that you do as much clinical work as possible. Two semesters of supervised HLS clinics are worth much more than a year or two in BigLaw as an associate.

He further laments how law school fails the entrepreneur:

I wish more students considered "hanging a shingle." I hope HLS will eventually offer a seminar in running your own practice to open up students' eyes to the possibility. HLS students are too risk averse for their own good - there is a lot of demand for services that you can provide for people. Many students go to BigLaw against their conscience or interests and hate lawyering, because they are not true to themselves. There is another path. It is exciting, liberating and uniquely fulfilling to have your own practice. You can prepare for it and be ready.

While you might say, "he went to Harvard.  He's got it easier,"  I would have to disagree.  Fear is fear.  Not following one's own desires and personality and terror at breaking free from the herd is not unique to Harvard Law graduates.  This mentality is instilled in all law students, the mantra, "you can't do it.  Who would hire you? You're a malpractice case waiting to happen" is drummed into your head from day one wherever you go to school.  He just paid more for the brainwashing.

There are many stories like Attorney Ryan's.  Thanks to the internet stories like these are available more readily.  And with this information you can find the support you need to make a go of it if that's your real desire.

Related Link:

Following Another's Definition of Success..... 


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Mark Bennett


Is it ironic that the lower-tier law schools better prepare their students to hang out shingles, and generally leave them in a better financial position to do so?


Steven C. Davidson

In many ways, law school helped prepared me to open my own firm. Even though I went to a third tier school (NYLS), the practical approach taught there helped give me the confidence to hang my shingle after a few years with a small firm. I have been on my own for almost eight years and have never been happier.

alex troiani

And that is why I chose NOT to attend Harvard Law, BU, BC or any other, because I knew Massachusetts was the only place I would ever live and I wanted a school that would hammer me with reality instead of iconoclastic BS, I chose Mass. School of Law (MSL) and believe me this school is great if you want to learn how to run your own solo practice. It follows the AMA guide where med students are taught by daily in the loop practitioners how to be a lawyer, OUT THERE - TODAY. MSL is not for everyone and the old boy networks will eventually catch on as to how good the talent is coming out of the school. I mean have been in 1st Circuit Federal Court and watched IVY league grads get their buts whipped, not on their briefs but on second by second strategy from the fax machine to in court presentation and motions...
I also passed the exam first time and saw some others from schools three to five times more expensive on their third to seventh try.

Thank God i made the right choice. I can sleep at night knowing I do not need 250k to pay back a tuition and I have
become a pretty damn good lawyer.

M Peraza, Newport RI

Congratulations Alex Troiani. I won't doubt that you became a pretty good lawyer. Kuddos to you.

Solomon Neuhardt

Respectfully to my alma mater, I was shocked by how little prepared I was for the practice of law let alone being a solo practitioner. In law school I focused on the things I thought were important, such as grades, law review, and obtaining a federal clerkship. My law review article for example was good writing practice but it really just makes a good paperweight now.

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