Grandpa, me, and you, Harvey, in front of the back door to the new Kuhn Rogers PLC office. Our prior firm merged with another firm in town, and the rest is history. This move was the result of a long summer of moving and discussing. The end result was an exciting beginning to another chapter of our careers.
Certainly, lawyers are not Luddites, determined to resist progress and deny any change. It’s that they are lawyers, not IT types. So that’s Lesson One: You can’t make lawyers talk IT; IT has to learn to talk lawyer.
Lesson Two is that lawyers insist on immediate gratification. They will happily sacrifice technological sophistication with its attendant steep learning curve for instant utility.
Lesson Three is the need for patience when introducing any sweeping change that seriously impacts traditional behaviors. Lawyers don’t welcome transformative changes, but they will accept sequential phase shifts if only because their competitors do.
Two things I’ve learned the hard way during my first year practicing as a lawyer:
- The Michigan Court Rules are extremely handy and offer clear directions in most situations. It’s good to read them thoroughly, and then revisit them for each specific matter.
- Reading on paper is easier and “better” than any digital replacement for paper. This statement might surprise a few of my co-workers, but as I head into my second year, I’m trying to better strike a balance between using paper and striving to be paperless. The idea of going paperless is nice, but there has to be universal access to all files when out of the office for it to really be a benefit. I’m finding it easier to simply plan for work out of the office and take specifically what I need. Working out of the office is tricky because I usually forget exactly what I need to really get down to work. This is where I’d like to have greater virtual access, but that requires diligently scanning everything and then ensuring it’s on the server and in the right place. Baby steps!
The saying used to go, “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.” That is not the case this year. As 2010 nears an end, there is still little indication as to what will happen with the Federal estate tax. In 2009, the exemption was $3.5M and anything over that was taxed at 45%. In 2010, the Federal estate tax was repealed. (Good year, if any, to die if you have a sizable estate!) In 2011, the exemption will revert to $1M and anything over that will be taxed at 55% percent. Get used to saying, “Nothing is certain by death and (insert snarky comment re: Federal government decision making here).”
Note: The Future of the Federal Estate Tax blog is an easy way to keep up with the latest news on the topic.
I passed the Michigan bar examination! It was pretty darn exciting to scroll down the online document and see, “Rogers, Christopher Guy” listed… easily one of the happiest and most satisfying days of my life.
I keep comparing the feeling of passing the Illinois bar to passing the Michigan bar, and there’s no clear winner. Although, I will say that I felt like there was a lot more on the line while taking the Michigan bar. In Illinois, I was well insulated from most everything that could get in the way of studying and there were far fewer people anticipating my results!
Woo hoo! Jump up and down! (Now back to work… haha.)
I was hiking Old Mission Point Park with the labradoodle and the husky when I heard that the Illinois bar results were starting to be released, and made my way home to check online. It took a few minutes to read the comments on Above the Law to figure out that ibaby.org was overwhelmed by test-takers checking for their scores. This didn’t surprise me, however I hope that the Illinois bar examiners are able to remedy the problem for next year. It’s not fun receiving an email that tells you your results are up and not being able to login!
October 9, 2009
Dear Mr. Rogers,
We are pleased to advise you that you have passed the July 2009 Illinois bar examination.
Our records reflect that you have satisfied all of the requirements for admission to the bar of Illinois pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 704 and will be certified to the Illinois Supreme Court as eligible to take the oath of admission.
Very truly yours,
Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar
This makes me very happy! Thanks to my family and friends for their support, the Franklin Pierce Law Center for teaching me well over the past three years, and the Starbucks on Halsted Street in Chicago’s Greektown where I spent most of my summer with my blue BarBri books and notecards.
Towards the end of law school I became interested in Estate Planning, so today I was pleased to find in my Google Reader a post titled, “Small Law Firm Open Thread: Trusts & Estates.” (Link) The meat of the post is in the comments section, which was surprisingly thoughtful and focused for a popular blog comments section. I’ve noted below some of my thoughts on points made in the comments which I found insightful.
- Tax and Real Estate Knowledge is a Must – This should be obvious to anyone who knows even the slightest amount about Estate Planning. In school it was often difficult to distinguish tax planning from estate planning, especially when we started talking about bigger numbers. I can only imagine the levels of tax that must be considered on some larger estates.
- Billing – There’s mention in the comments of fixed fee billing as opposed to hourly billing. For example, charging a client per will or trust as opposed to billing for the number of hours put in. This is irrelevant as far as I am concerned. A more experienced attorney will be more efficient and will thus complete more work – whether it’s more hours or more completed projects, it matters not. (The concern about not getting enough work seems to come from those attorneys commenting from “BigLaw.”
- Referrals – The comments emphasize the importance of developing solid referrers of work. Initially, making connections who then, via word of mouth, refer business to you, is more about marketing than legal skills. However, doing good work may be the best marketing you can do for yourself, so we kind of have a “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” situation.
- Criticism – There is some criticism of the Trust & Estate area as being soft, stuffy, or proper. I can understand this, however, because, regardless of the client, what they are discussing is both very private and very important to their livelihood and that of their family. It doesn’t seem too much to ask of a lawyer dealing with such clients to come off as professional and reserved if that’s what it takes.
- How to Break In – “One way to get into a trusts & estates practice from a non-law firm profession is to try to get a position with a bank that has a trust department. Many banks have them but call them “private client” groups. That is also a good way for trusts & estates lawyers to take a break and learn how to properly administer a will or trust. Also, once you have had to administer crappy documents because the lawyer who drafted it did not think outside the box when he said to keep a house or business in trust, you will never make that same mistake.” ~ Comment 23
- Small/Medium Firms – It seems that most estate planning takes place in small/medium firms. This appeals to me as I’ve never been interested in BigLaw. (I was spoiled by working for a start-up company out of college.)