Friday, June 11, 2010

The Law School Propaganda Machine Speaks: Open Your Own Law Firm Right After Graduation!

In light of the many desperate and unemployed graduates, the Propaganda machine is promoting hope by insisting that lawyers can practice right out of law school. Yah, right. As all BIDER readers know, graduates know nothing of how to practice the law. If they endeavored to open their own firm, the firm would cease at the point where a client asked the new attorney to file an action for negligence or to submit an answer to a complaint. Countless court clerks would laugh in your face as you scramble and try to make deadlines with wholly insufficient paperwork and would guard the door to the file room with condescending comments like, "I didn't go to law school and I know how to practice law better than you do," or "how is it that you didn't know there are supposed to be one inch margins on this motion and it's supposed to be double spaced and no longer than 10 pages? Didn't you go to law school?" I didn't make these comments up. When I took my first job as an associate, I worked for a non-praciticing solo who hired associates to make ASSES of themselves trying to pursue client's legal rights. He gave no guidance whatsoever and and thousands of dollars were wasted on trial and error when we tried to submit pretty much anything with the clerks of court. I was told these very same lines, when I came down to the courthouse with legal paperwork I slaved over. It's brutal. I actually developed a phobia of law clerks, that haunts me until today. That's just one hurdle to practicing the law without any experience or guidance whatsoever.
Let's see what "advice" they give to new graduates (italics are mine):

  • For example, if you want to focus your firm around litigation, spend a few days at the local courthouse. Befriend the employees who work behind the counters along with other courthouse staff; they are usually glad to show a respectful young attorney how to properly fill out and file paperwork. In a few minutes they may show you more about how the court system works than you learned in your entire law school career. Not my experience at all. See above. High School and College educated clerks love to make lawyers feel like shit. It's the hi-light of their day. I would add to this bit of advice, and this made my practice easier as a woman, wear a short skirt and a low cut shirt when you go to the clerk's office. Make sure you wait in line until a male clerk is available. Flirt unabashedly so that he doesn't inspect your papers with a magnifying glass. Get your copy stamped and run.
  • If you would like to focus your new practice on transactional work, consider volunteering at a local bar association, which may train volunteer attorneys on certain matters in exchange for taking on a certain number of cases pro bono. Sure... I have yet to see this program. You will take pro bono cases that will engulf your life and you will not get paid for them. They won't be resolved for months, and maybe years. Be super sweet to your client, maybe they will refer their other brokester friends to you.
  • When speaking to opposing counsel, do not feel intimidated by the other lawyer's experience. If something feels out of place and the opposing counsel may be wrong, you must double check and say something. Be unfriendly to opposing counsel. That way, you can be short with conversations when you have no clue what you're talking about and that may give you time to run to the internet and see what you should say next. Don't cringe when they say, "Have you done this type of law before?" Whenever you think its appropriate, say that you're celebrating your thirtieth birthday that next court date, and would prefer a date later in the week.
  • Many established attorneys and larger firms routinely turn away clients that cannot afford their fees or matters that to them are small. You can call and befriend established practitioners and see if they can refer the smaller cases and potential clients that cannot afford their fees to you. As a new law firm, you will not have the overhead costs of larger firms and as a result can handle the matter for a smaller fee and still make a profit. See first bullet point. When you meet friendly lawyers from other firms that may or may not give you clients, call them and make a coffee date and dress the part. Flirt like crazy and give them a feeling that they will get some if they give you clients. Don't wear a wedding ring. You can go back to business as usual and mention your husband once they give you a client for which you have a signed retainer.
  • If you, as a newly minted law school graduate, have the right attitude, confidence and skills, and put in the amount of work necessary to succeed, you can achieve your goal of opening a law firm directly from law school. Bullshit.
So, that's my take on their advice. I will add to the above, that you had better get malpractice insurance because you're going to need it. Good luck!


  1. I have followed the "new graduate" advice. It worked for me. My guess is that the advice's success depends on where you practice.

    The short skirt hooker angle should work too. Just check this out:

  2. Unless you have managed to befriend or find a job working for an attorney who is willing to spend weeks or months showing you the ropes of the courthouse and who will be on hand to answer any questions you may have as issues pop up, you should dismiss any advice that you should run out and start taking your very own cases as being incredibly thoughtless or absurd on the part of the person making the suggestion.

    The support staff will have a field day at your expense. I don't care how genuinely nice and respectful you are towards them. I used to work in a support staff role for several years, and I mistakenly believed that my understanding of their job would make the day go smoother. I think it was a big factor that cost me my job. For all the bitching that these people do about attorneys not knowing where they left their asses, they actually like that little arrangement because they don't want knowledgeable people asking questions about what they are doing with their time.

  3. Do they include advice on how to defend a malpractice claim? Or how to handle disbarment proceedings?

    These shills have no shame.

  4. Yes, you can start a law firm right out of law school. I'm sure Sallie Mae will wait patiently for her student loan payments while you get yourself situated. And don't worry. "I'm Right Out of Law School" is a valid defense to a malpractice claim.

    Whatever you do, be sure to tell your law school you're "employed," so they can keep their employment statistics nice and rosy.

    Best of luck to you all.

    Bill Shill, Esq.

  5. Yes, you won't have any overhead, but no, practicing out of your car generally doesn't impress potential clients.

    If you've got a rich uncle or parent that is willing to give you $20k to open your practice, you might actually be able to pretend you're an attorney for awhile. You still won't really know what you're doing and probably won't make money though.

    Also, of course, you also could have just gotten that money before going to law school and started a business which would have, in 4 years or so of law school, bar exam and admission, gotten you a decent income by now.

  6. Oh my Lord.

    Actual Cases My Big-Firm Former Colleagues Sent My Way:

    1. A client residing at a mental hospital wanting me to get her out of a drug test so that she could keep custody of her kids. She liked to call me 20 times a day.

    2. A contingency probate case. To this day, I don't even really know what probate is. Did not take this one.

    3. A dog bite case, also contingency.

    4. A crazy old man whose silver trades had gone wrong. Also contingency, and he threatened to sue me when the case settled and he didn't want to pay my pittance.

    5. A guy who "just wants to get my office furniture back" from an employer who fired him. Also contingency. (WTF? Was I supposed to take one of the drawers?)

    And that was just the first few months.

  7. I think that all new lawyers should stay away from contingency cases. I don't take them. Too much hassle.

  8. Going solo right out of law school is especially a clusterfuck in a town like Minneapolis, where the four law schools pump out 1000 new grads every year. By and large the three TTTs send almost all of their grads into small firm practice (if at all), and when there is the inevitable lack of jobs, a lot of these people grit their teeth and decide to open up their own solo shop. Probably costs them whatever life savings they still have after going through law school. The amount of solos willing to do ANYTHING is frightening. Even more so now that schools are pushing ever more jobless grads to hang out their shingle.

    For having a relatively small population, MN has one of the highest lawyer per capita ratios in the nation.

  9. I agree with what Angel said at 3:09. The only thing I would add is that contingency is okay if you have a large defendant and a fee shifting provision or an auto case with insurance. Otherwise, don't bother.

  10. Nobody should worry about malpractice claims. Everyone should buy insurance.

    Like a good neighbor, I am here.

    Oh, maybe everyone should complain more about bar exams than (or in addition to) law schools. If bar exam passage rates could be reasonable, there would be less attorneys out in the marketplace. The passage rate should be less than 50%, probably a lot less.

  11. Not that I'd reccomend going solo, but at one time it was possible. Some old time lawyer who was ready to retire would take you under his wing, introduce you around and show you the ropes. It won't happen now. The best advice I ever received while practicing was to send a bunch of flowers to the clerks after you'd filed something. They never forget and thereafter will always help.

  12. Oh, the adorable kids thinking they're fit to practice after taking a semester of trial advocacy and maybe a drafting class or two.

    The problem is that most of these kids have no clue how to make rain, so even if they did have some skills and a mentor to rely upon, they'd still have no clients.

    I read somewhere that China's oversupply of single men v. women (due to the one child policy and female infanticide) has left a large population of really angry, violent men roaming the country.

    I wonder if we're going to see the same thing when the unemployed lawyers start banding together...

  13. You bloggers are correct about the scam but are too harsh on victims who make the same mistake we made. There's more info out there now (thanks to you), but we all knew long ago that there were too many lawyers. What else are prospective law students supposed to do? I often regret my decision to go to law school, but I don't know what else I should have done. Many recent grads with "in-demand" degrees in nursing and teaching can't find jobs, and I'm sure potential carpenters, plumbers, etc. are having similar trouble. My view is we're all in this hell together, so let's try to find a solution. Many blogs expose the law school scam (kudos to you for warning others), but none mention the obvious lawyerly solution: SUE. If you're sure that the schools mislead on employment prospects, why not sue for fraud (or unfair trade practices)? Can't the real numbers be accessed by subpoena or FOIA request? I'm considering starting a law firm practicing in this type of practice and would appreciate your thoughts.

  14. Many criticize the schools and the Obama Administration for failing to bring change. Success is measured by action not words. Are you willing to take ACTION to bring change? Instead of complaining on the internet, why don't you sue the schools for fraud (or unfair trade pracites)?

  15. is completely irresponsible in encouraging down-on-their-luck, unemployed JDs to start their own practice. This is vile and sick behavior.


  17. I graduated from a T14 school in another crap market in the 1990s and I started my own practice out of the gate. I did find a kindly atty or two to take me under their wing - and this was how I mostly avoided the "CLERK STARE." It's doable, but when I ran the numbers, I don't think I earned more than three bucks an hour. Those 'pro bono' cases you take to learn will kill you, dead.



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