Oh The Things They Didn't Teach Us In Law School
The old adage, "It's not what you know, but who you know" does not hold true in the modern practice of law. As classic overachievers, many of us began to compete in elementary school, continued to work hard to obtain the best grades and then to achieve the highest score on our college SATs. Once in college, we realized that the competition intensified, culminating in a big push on the LSATs. Having made the grade, we looked around on the first day of law school, and realized that being an overachiever in a classroom of overachievers is not enough, and made even greater strides to excel. Finally upon graduation, we all put in a Herculean effort to sit for the Maryland Bar examination only once.
The problem is that after being sworn in as attorneys, we all have the harsh realization that law school really did not prepare us for the practice of law. In reality, law school can do little more than teach Socratic reasoning and problem solving, encourage the development of research and writing skills, and provide a rudimentary understanding of the rules of procedure.
This became apparent to me in 1977, the summer after my first year of law school, when I went door-to-door in Rockville looking for a summer internship. I knocked on the door of Barney Welsh, a senior lawyer and a part-time law professor who had the reputation, unbeknownst to me, of being quite a character. I had no idea what I was in for! He asked me in a scolding tone "What do you know and what can you possibly offer a law firm? You will not have any idea what this is all about until you have practiced law for ten years.” I stood my ground, and told him I was willing to learn and would be a hard worker. Needless to say, I walked out mad as a hornet, and without a job. What really angered me was that over the next five to ten years, I realized that he was right. I needed to learn so much more than was offered in law school.
At our March Bar luncheon, we were pleased to have University of Maryland Law School Dean Haddon speak to us about the need for experienced attorneys to serve a mentors to graduating law students. Chief Administrative Judge John Debelius asked the question that was on most members minds, “Why doesn't law school curriculum include pragmatic education as to the basics, such as setting up IOLTA accounts, and running a law office?” Clearly, law schools recognize the need to address these issues but with limited time and resources the law schools have been unable to do so.
As a bar association, we can help by providing gap-bridging programs and practical supplemental education for recent graduates on these subjects as well as the need to belong to our association and become part of the legal community. It was clear from the Dean's presentation that if we don't step up and assist, this vital need goes unanswered.
John Monahan has begun formulating our contribution of CLE programs for this purpose. These presentations have been well received by recent admittees who now desperately recognize this need. For those of you who have the ability of paying it forward by mentoring recent graduates and assisting in this program, you can help ease the culture shock we all have experienced. Merely knowing the players is a help, but WHAT YOU KNOW by way of introduction to the real practice of law is critical.
The BAMC Mentor/Mentee program is in full swing, so if you are interested in becoming a Mentor or are looking for a mentor, please contact Eby Kalantar at firstname.lastname@example.org or Roz Tang at
email@example.com. If you have any other ways you would like to become active in this endeavor, please feel free to give me or Julie at the Bar Office a call.
Don’t forget to sign up for our 1st Learning For Life Series seminar, Will I Ever Be Able to Retire?, to be held on Tuesday, September 23, 2014. This series is free of charge and open to all BAMC members. Please sign up by visiting the Bar Foundation CLE section of the BAMC website.
Join us for the 2014 Inspiration Walk 2K/5K Run presented by the BAMC and the Special Olympics at Georgetown Prep on Sunday, September 28th! For more information or to register, go to www.somowalk.org.