The Law Student / Lawyer Trail

The Law Student / Lawyer Trail

For people who want to go to law school or who are lawyers, the following is my view of the law student / lawyer trail, or stated differently, the primary steps, time periods and activities in the development of a lawyer.

My list includes 8 primary steps, times and activities. And each step, time or activity will in some manner impact and influence what follows, but not necessarily in an absolute way.  The law is a constantly changing environment – for every challenge or change in the law, your practice, or the legal profession different opportunities develop, and people, firms and clients are always looking for better solutions and results or ROI (return on investment).  And these steps or processes should be a collaborative endeavor because working in silos makes it more difficult to identify and evaluate the risks/uncertainties, opportunities and solutions, and to achieve the objectives and results.

Of course this list isn’t the be-all and end-all, as obviously the primary steps, times and activities can be expanded and tweaked.

Although step one is extremely important and covers a long period of time and development, and what you do in step one will significantly impact whether you go to law school, which law school, and your path as a lawyer, you will also note that step one is the only step, time or activity that occurs prior to the law school application process.

Thus, a tremendous amount of development occurs or can occur leading up to and at the time of the law school application and thereafter.

Of course each lawyer’s trail will be different and individual, and also in some respects similar, but each of the 8 steps, times and activities requires that you:

(1) Develop or learn, and continually learn or update;

(2) Current qualifications, expertise, experience and interests that are needed and valued in the legal services market and are available for immediate use;

(3) While engaging in effective outreach and personally connecting and appropriately promoting yourself with the right people so that they (1) really get to know you or of you, (2) respect your reputation and what you are doing and can do for them, and (3) think of you as a go-to person and want you to work for them or much better yet they want to work with you.

1.  First or step one, the lawyer’s personality, life experiences and education before the law school application process.

2.  Second, as a law school applicant, the connection between the applicant and the prospective law schools.

3.  Third, law student mentoring and career development during law school.

4.  Fourth, law student education, experience, training and qualifications developed during law school including both the academic education and the hands-on practical experience.

5.  Fifth, bar passage.

6.  Sixth, as a law school graduate/lawyer, the connection between the lawyer and prospective employers and prospective clients, including the market need and pricing for legal services and practice areas.

7.  Seventh, alumni/lawyer mentoring, career development and connecting after law school.

8.  And eighth, the lawyer’s ongoing continuing education, professional and life experiences, relationships, training and qualifications throughout the lawyer’s career.

Each one of these steps, times and activities is important and will impact development and opportunities, happiness and satisfaction: because there are different and better opportunities available for you; changes do occur in the law and legal services marketplace; sometimes people decide that they no longer want to work with you; sometimes you decide that you no longer want to work with certain people; and sometimes you just want to do something different.

Thanks for listening.

Law firm looking for attorney development supervisor – perhaps similar in part to law schools developing and preparing their JD students . . .

Continuing on the same topic, law schools – law business, I have pasted below a copy of an advertisement that I came across for a law firm attorney development supervisor position.  It struck me that in some ways the position is worded in a manner that is similar to the development and mentoring by law schools of their students while they are still in school and prior to graduation.  I removed the name of the law firm – not that I think that they would mind me using their advertisement as it would be good distribution for their hiring search, and the advertisement is public anyway.

I do disagree with the following job candidate qualifications that are requested in the advertisement: “Undergraduate degree required and 5-7 years relevant work experience. An advanced degree in a related field and/or JD a plus.”  In my opinion a JD and actual lawyer work experience are or should be required, not just a plus, for anyone who is hired for this position.  Letting my guard down a little – about a year ago I interviewed for a similar position with a very reputable law firm in San Francisco but requiring a JD and legal experience.  It’s a very tough competitive legal market folks and the law profession is based on a sometimes archaic structure.  The wording of the advertisement is pasted below.

Dave Tate, Esq. (San Francisco)



About the Job

__________________ California Law Firm “Firm” is seeking an Attorney Development Supervisor to lead the Professional Development functions in the ______________, California Office. The Supervisor will oversee and directly support all aspects of attorney development including new attorney arrivals, policies and procedures, evaluations and compensation, training, diversity, career development counseling, attorney relations, mentor program, attorney departures, leaves of absences and be responsible for maintaining attorney personnel records and databases. The Supervisor will work closely with the Office Leader, Practice Leaders and administrative departments. The Attorney Development Supervisor will report to the Firm’s Director of Professional Personnel and Attorney Development.

Responsibilities will further include, but are not limited to:

  • · Implement professional development programs to meet the Firm and Office objectives and foster a sense of community.
  • · Coach, develop and evaluate attorney development staff member(s), working to implement Firm-wide initiatives related to work/life balance, benefits and other arrangements. Works with Firm HR and Benefits personnel on administrative matters related to attorney benefits, flexible schedules, leaves of absence, disability and other leave arrangements.
  • · Serve as confidential resource to attorneys, provide career guidance and manage personnel issues. Provide guidance and direction on Firm policy and standards. Maintain confidentiality in handling attorney relation matters and personnel records.
  • · Direct the onboarding process for incoming, transfer and lateral attorneys, serving as the primary contact and ensuring a smooth and successful integration into practices.
  • · Foster open communication and make recommendations on professional development issues. Work to ensure the growth and development of the department and its relationship with the practice groups.
  • · Plan and attend attorney social functions.
  • · Forecast financial and budget requirements for the department in conjunction with the Office Administrator, Firm-wide resources and the local office Accounting Manager.
  • · Manage the associate and counsel evaluation process including interim feedback, self- assessment and feedback.
  • · Oversee the coordination of office affinity groups, including the Diversity Group, Women’s group, Mother’s group, African American attorneys’ group, Asian American attorneys’ group and other groups as needed.
  • · Identify and makes recommendations for associate and counsel training efforts for practice areas and overall Firm training goals and objectives. Work with the Professional Development Committee to plan and execute the associate mentor program. Work with consultants to coordinate training, coaching and outplacement when appropriate.
  • · Evaluate departmental reports, decisions and analysis in relation to established goals. Recommend new approaches and policies to reflect continuous improvements in the department’s processes and efficiencies.

Broad and thorough knowledge of Attorney Development practices. Ability to organize and prioritize numerous projects and deadlines under time constraints. Demonstrated experience leading and supervising staff. Effectively employ coaching and problem solving techniques. Strong interpersonal skills required to interact with all levels of attorneys and support staff employees. Ability to handle sensitive and confidential matters, use discretion and exercise good judgment. Excellent analytical, organizational and planning skills. Available to work a flexible work schedule, including extended hours. Five plus years of experience with a professional services organization preferred.

Undergraduate degree required and 5-7 years relevant work experience. An advanced degree in a related field and/or JD a plus.

Interested candidates can apply by sending their resume to ___________________.

Note: I have removed the remainder of the posting which was essentially disclosures and disclaimers that are unnecessary to this post.