What They didn’t teach you at the Law School
Law School prepares you to think, write and research like a lawyer, but once you’re at the door of a law firm or a courtroom, there’s a whole new set of skills you need. The present series of articles aims to enrich a new lawyer with all these skills in order for him/her to excel.
It is important for lawyers to keep learning, particularly when it comes to practice skills. As we gain more experience, try more cases, negotiate more settlements, and draft more motions, we get complacent. It is easy to fall into the mindset that since we have litigated the same type of case dozens of times, there is nothing new for us to learn. Unfortunately, complacent lawyers miss things, sometimes things crucial to the success of their litigation.
Lawyers need sharp legal knowledge and up-to-date resources to effectively handle legal problems and carve out the relevant facts and issues to be addressed. The opportunities to stay abreast of the law are continually growing, and it’s now easier than ever to access timely and accurate information. Lawyers who invest the time to stay sharp with these tools can gain the trust of their clients and a reputation for quality.
In fact, staying abreast of the latest legal developments in your areas of expertise can save you time. Knowing about a legislative change or a new case before you start formulating your advice enables you to do the work with confidence and you won’t have to re-think or re-write it. However, failing to take into account a changed law can result in negligent advice to your clients, which means a dent to your reputation.
Good litigators keep an eye out daily for changes and emerging trends in the law that impact their practice areas through newsletters, law journal alerts, trade journals, and other publications.
Online legal information providers are one of the best sources of legal updates on a broad range of subject areas. These resources can be customised to your specific needs and sent to your mobile device. You can also access experts’ blog posts, podcasts, practice notes, checklists and precedents so that you can be confident of using the most accurate and up-to-date reference materials.
Industry newsletters provide a wealth of information about legal developments, broad policy changes and market shifts that directly affect your clients. Such in-context information can highlight the practical implications of a law or policy change to your client’s business.
Keeping up with this information is time consuming, but an essential tool for a good litigator, as well as part of the ethical obligation that a zealous advocate has for his clients. You cannot be effective in the courtroom or in your legal writing on behalf of your clients if you are not familiar with the current law and legal trends that concern their matters. So, make sure to carve out a little time each day to read up.
Further, it’s quite beneficial to attend industry networking events. Not only do you receive practical industry information, you also have the opportunity to build your professional profile, learn about your competitors, network with clients and share the learning experience with clients and colleagues.
The most refreshing thing is the broad range of people who attend such programs. Participants range from junior law clerks just out of the law school to seasoned litigators and even several judges. The programs focus on practical skills and there are several role-play sessions for participants to practice what they learn in the lectures.