Law School Discussion

A note to aspiring law students from a lawyer who was in your position years ago

Keep talking JGCESQ!!

Your four posts are worth more than all the other zillion posts I have read so far...

One question.  How would you recommend getting more proficient at the writing portion of law school?  Do you hit up the writing prof's for extra assignments? Do you try to get more of their time and attention to further personalize their comments?

Thanks for the insights...

So if you're the sort of person that really wants to do trial law, is it possible?  I was given the impression it was a dying breed because so few things go to trial it becomes little more than happenstance for those who end up in a situtaion to be actually trying cases.  How would you focus specifically on trial law within your specialization?

ON PREPARING FOR TRIAL WORK IN LAW SCHOOL. Law school won't prepare you to try any case. When you get out of law school, you'll be lucky if you know how to fight a speeding ticket, never mind knowing how to competently try a criminal or major civil case. To their credit, many law schools have take a SMALL step forward by having moot court competitions, but they are few and usually nothing like an actual trial.

ON HOW TO LEARN HOW TO TRY CASES. First, it should be noted that you have to have some natural ability to do it. You have to speak well, write well, have a rock-solid understanding of the court and evidentiary rules, and have a flair for the dramatic. A lot of what lawyers do in front if juries is act. A lawyer is an ADVOCATE; he doesn't always agree with the points that he argues on behalf of his clients. Sometimes, he will use an argument with which he personally disagrees. It's about winning. As the managing partner of my former law firm told me, no one cares that you "tried your best"; no one cares that you "argued the case as well as anybody could have." There are only two things: winning and losing. And the goal is to pick the arguments that will win. Some lawyers settle on a theory of the case and pound away with that theory, failing to realize that it's not convincing any of the jurors. The goal is not to take your key and ram it into the lock, trying to force it open; it's to look at the 150 keys on your chain and figure out which key will open the lock.

The best way to learn how to try cases is to find someone who does it well and watch him. Ask the faculty when you're in school. Ask them for names of the best local trial lawyers or look in the local legal newspaper; they all have sections about recent verdicts. Who's winning the cases? See which people are winning the big verdicts. Also, when you have free time in the summer, spend a day in court. Sit in the back. Watch what people do. My personal advice would be to look at a small firm with a very well-known trial lawyer as the managing partner. It's one thing to be at a huge firm with well-known lawyers, but it's another to be in a firm with a well-known lawyer who is actually going to know your name and show you something.

As far as settling cases goes, you will come to know which clients are going to settle and which won't. Moreover, how you describe an opponent's settlement offer to your client will have a lot to do with whether your client accepts the offer. If you tell the client that you think the offer is a good offer, you might get a different response if you tell them that you think that they can do better. Of course, you have to be very careful with that in order to avoid misleading the client.

« Reply #52 on: July 25, 2005, 05:15:30 PM »
JGCESQ, it is a pleasure to read your posts. Question: in what city do you practice?

Great Stuff


JGCESQ, thanks for bringing some real-world sense onto these boards. Opinions on here can be so black-and-white. (I.e., it's either "BIGLAW," or you will never have a job or make any money.) I've been in the corporate world for many years, and it's obvious that soft skills take you very, very far. I work with lots of people who have achieved high positions and make tons of money, and they probably went to colleges nobody's ever heard of.


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Definitely an interesting thread... Bump


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I never understood the absolute appeal for that vague "utopia" that is BIGLAW. My fondest dream is to just be an average in-house transactional lawyer for some company, any company really. I don't want to be their lead corporate counsel, fighting the big fights. I just want to do their damn paperwork. :P

Thanks for the awesome insights, JGCESQ. It's refereshing.


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Thanks for all the info, JGCESQ. I never really understood the BIGLAW beyond movies, but you have given me the true version.

Thanks for all of your input JGCESQ. Great stuff.

The only thing I'd take issue with is the notion that a "normal person" working a "normal job" would be making $62,500 for a 35 hour week. Maybe we come from different tax brackets or social circles, but most of the normal people I know work much longer hours for much less than that (and their lunch hour doesn't count as part of their 8 hour day). I've put in a lot of 60 hour weeks for salaries closer to $30,000.

On a related note, I think the 40 hour week is actually ridiculous and unnecessary.
If I were king of the world the standard work week would be 24 hours.
I think we'd all be much more sane and have much more balanced lives. 

From my experience working in the consulting field for the past 5 years, I have rarely worked over 40 hour weeks on a consistent basis. Might I add, I'm no slacker and I have been promoted several times, make a decent salary, etc...  During busy times, I've had to work extra hours, but for the most part, I put in maybe 40 - 45. As for what I'll do after graduation, I plan on staying in the same industry. I don't see any 60-80 hour work weeks. It's not worth the lifestyle sacrifice.