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 In 2010, the Federal estate tax was repealed.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.
First, a short history on BarBri. “Bar” refers to “Bay Area Review and “Bri” stands for “Bar Review Institute.” The two were merged in 1974 and marketed thereafter as “BarBri.”
I’m nearing the end of the third full week of my BarBri bar exam review class. The first week was the Multistate Advantage; since then it’s been the “official” class, which covers the substantive law topic-by-topic.
With each new topic comes a new professor / presenter. I’ve had four professors thus far, and have been pleased with each of their presentations. However, Michael J. Kaufman of the Loyola University Chicago School of Law, who covered Agency, Partnership, and Corporations, is my clear favorite. I think my classmates would agree. He came off as eccentric in an effective and energetic way, and conveyed the outlines memorably. (It helps that he’s got an MA and a JD from the University of Michigan.)
The other presenters were:
Richard Conviser, who happens to be the Founder and Chairman of BarBri and a professor at the Chicago-Kent College of Law. He presented Torts over the first two days. While not as memorable as Kaufman, he was clear and efficient in his delivery.
Michael I. Spak of Chicago-Kent School of Law finished his presentations on the sleep-inducing areas of Commercial Paper and Suretyship yesterday. My first read of the long outline for Commercial Paper was frustrating because of the amount of information and multiple levels of detail. However, what BarBri does effectively, and what Spak did clearly was to reduce the information to a memorable shorter outline that targets what I need to know for the bar exam. Spak possesses an interesting combination of grandfatherly expressions and off-color jokes pertaining to various sexual acts, which, commendably, are not easy to slip into a presentation on Commercial Paper.
Faust F. Rossi of the Cornell University Law School presented Evidence today and will continue to do so for another four hours tomorrow. His outline boils down evidence law to logical sequences that seem to be easy to remember. I remember taking evidence in law school and feeling, at times, quite lost. His lectures highlight a distinction between studying for the bar and studying in law school. The emphasis when studying for the bar is on knowing and understanding the law, not knowing specific cases or rules. That’s a good thing! One less level of information to remember.
The class in general:
The review class is huge. I thought the class size would shrink when the “real” review classes started because there would then be morning, afternoon and evening sessions. I was completely wrong. There are far more – hundreds – of fellow lawyers-to-be. It’s weird coming from the lone law school in New Hampshire, which cranks out approximately 150 new lawyers a year, to the third largest city in the US and being amongst more students in this one review location than in my law school class. (I’m probably making an obvious point, but still – there are a lot of them!)
Studying outside of class has been bearable, but not easy by any means. I commend those classmates that work part-time and do the review. I’m sure they sacrifice their studies to a degree. There is definitely enough review and practice problems to keep me busy for the majority of the waking day. Plus, with getting settled in Chicago, I’ve been absolutely exhausted about once every seven days.
The advantage of being in a new place, however, is that when I grow restless in one study location I can take a long walk to another one. It’s fun to people watch and get some fresh air.
Greektown has been good to me thus far. I’ve had more Gyros in the last three weeks than I had in the previous three years. At six dollars for an over-stuffed gyro, fries and a drink, how can I not eat them two or three times a week? I usually go to Mr. Greek’s Gyros on the corner of Halsted and Jackson because they have free drink refills. However, I need to try the place across the street.
Good stuff. More soon!
I am halfway through the first day of my final week of law school classes ever. There have been some tweets to this fact by a few of my fellow law school tweeters. The mix is from excitement to sadness. And I fall at both ends and in between. Or, at least I plan to.
The excitement hasn’t quite hit me yet. I still have a good deal of work to do to finish the semester in good fashion. But, come the end of finals, whether that is the end of next week or the week after (it all depends on how much I want to pack my days versus spreading the work out and delaying the ultimate end), I plan to be excited. I can imagine how it will feel. I’ll walk out of school after dropping off my last assignment. I’ll close my eyes for a second to adjust to the late-spring sunlight, and then I’ll smile. I’m not one to scream or jump around. Not about things like this, anyway. (I save that for the golf course and tennis matches and watching Michigan football games.) My smile will turn into a grin and my shoulders will relax. It will be a relief.
Inevitably, I’ll feel a sense of something short of disappointment that stems from my always wondering if I could have made the entire experience better, more efficient, more fun, etc. Something can always be improved. But instead of being disappointed this time, like I was when I left Washington D.C., I hope to accept that I’ve learned many things about “the law” and about myself during the past three years. It’s amazing, when looking back, how fast – how absolutely fast – the time has passed.
Looking back will be easy. There is a definite end to things. My last day of class. Finishing my last final. Receiving my diploma on graduation day.
Looking forward is less concrete. The rest of my life is going to start on May 17th when I get into my Ford Explorer and start driving west to Chicago, Illinois. I’m working diligently to bring the unplanned into focus. I’ve sorted my storage shed into “ship,” “sort,” “sell” and “toss.” I need to find an apartment in Chicago, a task I generally leave to the very last minute. (This past semester, I didn’t find an apartment until the day I arrived in town.) And most of all, I need to find a job while studying to pass the bar.
This is just me rambling. I could go on, but I have my third-to-last class in ten minutes, so I’ll end my commentary here.
I have ten minutes to write this. Go, me!
On Court: My bracket is holding up well with all four final four teams intact. The first weekend of the tournament really is one of the best weekends of sports all year. I’d put it up there with the Majors in golf and Tennis.
Off Court: This entire month has been a whirlwind of activity. I’m running in circles trying to keep up with my tasks that seem to be swept further ahead with each passing day. I have two major assignments in the immediate future.
1. A Business Entities Taxation midterm, which is falling very late in the semester. It will cover exclusively partnership law. The good thing is that the final will not be aggregate, so we’ll be able to “forget” partnership tax to the extent that it does not apply to corporations. I have a feeling we’re not going to be allowed to forget enough.
2. A presentation on Justice Benjamin Cardozo for Judicial Opinion Drafting. I will be discussing the persuasiveness of six of his opinions that I’ve carefully selected. While this isn’t exactly public speaking, it still involves speaking in front of people – something of which I’m not a huge fan. In preparation, I’ve Googled “presentation advice” and perused some tips on what makes Steve Jobs an effective presenter. I’ll let you know in a week if the advice translates to my classroom discussion.
My ten minutes is up. Say hi if you want. There’s a woefully underused Contact page in the top right of your screen. Have a good day!
I just read an interesting post on Kottke.org titled, “Getting into Character.” It talks about how actors, athletes, and business people wear two different hats – a private one and a job one.
Many of us see our parents do this to a degree when we are growing up. There is an added awareness, more than anything, of where they are and what has to be done.
I think back to my time at Ruckus and K12 knowing that I could have cultivated and displayed a more consistent work persona. I worked hard and was attentive, creative and efficient, but these things varied from week to week. (This ties in with the concept of having a defined approach to work.) What I’m trying to say is that I was not always able to get into character and stay there all day.
As a lawyer-to-be, I’ve been thinking about interacting with clients. Regardless of what area of law I end up practicing, one of the most important aspects of both being successful (garnering clients) and being effective (doing good word for my clients) will be getting into a consistently professional, knowledgeable, and compassionate character while working.