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November 09, 2007

Every Once In A Great While....I Agree With Larry Bodine. Do You?

Today Larry Bodine called it like it is in his post "Good Law Schools Make For Bad Marketers":

"Peter Darling observes in the Business Development blog that "if you go to a hot school, you will get a much better job out of the gate, if "better" means big firm, big city, high salary. However, you will also have a harder time, I think, learning to market yourself."

Good law schools make for bad legal marketing, he says.  I'll go further: ALL law schools are useless when it comes to legal marketing.

"Even at elite schools, Darling says, when students are ejected out into big firms, first of all, they often have no idea how the "soft" part of a career functions -- interpersonal relationships, strategy, networking, etc. They're not used to being treated as cogs in a much bigger machine. And finally, they have absolutely no idea of how to market themselves, or, fatally, why it matters.

They've always done well. They've always made it to the next step through sheer performance. But as I've written many times, the real world, the marketplace in which they function, is not that way at all. It's chaotic, and requires skills -- like selling, and networking -- that they've never needed. The result can be trouble."

I've given up on the law schools.  Their response to marketing training has always been lame, and it won't change.  Lawyers are better off doing what the rainmakers do: getting business development training or coaching once they're in practice."

While I don't agree all law schools' responses have been lame, as I don't think Larry knows all level of law school or the efforts they are making, for the most part business development and marketing are not a focus because it is not of primary benefit to the law school when it comes to their job placement numbers.  And their financial lives are dictated by job placement numbers.  They also disregard economic realities for most of their students.  Call me naive, but I still believe there will be a change...not because of a simple recognition it is best for the students, but because there will be pressure to change as has been written on this blog in various incarnations.


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» Law Schools and Marketing from St. Louis Solo
Susan Cartier Liebel has an intersting post on whether law schools are adequately preparing their graduates to market themselves and develop their practice. I have only been to one law school so my experience is somewhat limited. From that limited exp... [Read More]


Peter Olson

I interviewed a recent Northwestern grad for a position with our firm and she said everybody there goes "big firm." This woman wants to do otherwise and said she's rather unprepared. There was a quote by Harvard's dean in the NYTimes recently sort of bragging about the fact that its curriculum hadn't changed in 150 years...sort of eye-opening. All that said I don't think my third-tier, state school alma mater did a heck of a lot better.

Account Deleted

I'm glad we're of like mind on this issue. It's good that you foresee a change in law schools, because it's long overdue.

I conducted a survey of lawyers in August 2007, inquiring into business development. More than 9 out of 10 lawyers said they are deeply unhappy with the lack of marketing training in law school.

Some have been fortunate to find marketing mentors after graduation, and 61% have taken a post-graduate course or training session in marketing. You can see the verbatim comments of respondents at http://tinyurl.com/2dtdyv

Larry Bodine

St. Louis Solo

I can honestly say that my alma mater could not have doen a worse job of preparing me for any type of business development or marketing. Also, this was not simply a matter of not offering classes when I could take them. The administration just simply made the decision to not offer them at all.

The focus in law schools, at least mine, was on pushing people toward the "big law" life and, at least theoretically, in that situation, marketing and practice development would be taken care of for you.

Very disappointing considering the huge amount of money put into my law school education.

Bryan Weaver

I am not surprised to hear that law schools fail miserably at preparing the soon-to-be lawyers for marketing of any sort. I agree with Larry Bodine on this. I also agree that I would feel ripped-off by the school that dangled the proverbial carrot in front of me with the vision of a future career where the "business of law" just sort of happens. Just pay us for 3 years, get into the most debt you've ever been in, and everything will "work out"...Thank you Polly-Anna.

If the schools don't know how to coach at the most fundamental level, namely the individualn level, how can anyone expect the schools to be able to move up to more complex marketing in the real world? It isn't going to happen until someone complains loud and long, because "marketing" isn't in the typical law student vocabulary, neither is "selling", as that is beneath them. Hmm. If you want to get law students all in an uproar, mingle with them at a party and tell them they are really learning how to sell, that they are learning how to convince somebody that their opinion is better than somebody else's in order to get that someone to act. If this isn't the pot calling the kettle black, I don't know what is.

Unfortunately for most 1L wannabes, their thoughts are not on the reality that they may not get a job with a big firm, a medium firm, or even a small firm and may have to go solo in order to ply their new craft. There is no way the school is going to promote to the student that it is highly likely that they are about to embark on a career as a small business entrepreneur and may have to struggle for a few years, just like everyone else who wants to start a business. I'd bet that law school enrollment will go way down, but law schools are there to satisfy a desire (not necessarily a need), and they have to make ends meet too.

Also unfortunate is the fact that most of the law students won't know they will be left with a gaping hole in their education until they are well out of school and struggling to find clients. It will be a little too late to campaign for a more "real world" based curriculum, so the cycle just continues on with the new recruits.

Despite the fact very few graduates actually go to work for one of the mega-firms, why is there so much interest in what these firms do? It may be interesting reading, but practically speaking, of little value to the anxious job seeker, especially at the schools that are saddled with the stigma of being second tier.

There is nothing wrong with law schools trying to model their newly-minted attorneys to fit the big-firm mold. What is wrong is that the schools don't go any farther and actually prepare the majority of students for the small firm/solo environment. These are some of the same schools that have openly admitted that the big firms don't even consider them because they are second tier or lower schools. I really don't know why they do this (at least at two of the local San Diego schools, (your results may vary in your locale)), other than I suspect that they really don't know how to do it, so they just fake it.

I have a pile of several hundred resumes and cover letters, and 95% of the cover letters are boilerplate provided by the career placement office. I can usually guess which school by the use of similar paragraph structure and word use. The schools aren't doing the students any favors here. I don't want to be told that my firm can do for the associate's legal future, I want to hear that the new associate will ultimately make my firm lots of money and to have them tell me how they can do it. I have only had one cover letter that really addressed this, and we hired him.

Just some thoughts on a post-Thanksgiving workday.
Bryan Weaver

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