Tricks of the Trade, Part 1

The latest gimmick to make law school relevant is to recreate the third year curriculum so that students graduate with some basic skills in the practice of law.  While prawfs and deans swirl adjectives around their innovations, Eric Mayer at  Unwashed Advocate provides some hard core practical advice in Client Intake 101.

Here is the syllabus for the first four classes:

1. Introduction. Title: “No Kids, We Don’t Make This Shit Up”

2. What the hell is a “consultation?” How your definition is not the same as that of the potential client.

3. Practical Exercise: Controlling the initial consultation. Theme: It’s not for them; it’s for you.

4. Getting to the Bottom Line 1. Theme: Your mortgage cannot be paid in thank-you-so-much-for-your-time and you-gave-me-a-lot-to-think-about currency.

Read the rest, as it’s not only hysterically funny, but spot on accurate.  Coincidentally, Mark Bennett (who is a  guest-lecturer in Eric’s course based upon his expertise in dealing with nutjobs) posts about why some potential clients have extreme difficulty finding their perfect lawyer.

Finding a second lawyer to replace the first lawyer on a case is difficult and expensive—the second lawyer, if she is at all competent, is going to look closely both at what the first lawyer did (to determine what was screwed up, and whether it can be fixed) and why the client and the first lawyer parted ways (to determine if there is something wrong with the case or with the client).

Finding a lawyer to replace a pro se party on a case is even more difficult and expensive—the pro se has, almost by definition, screwed up the case; and there is likely something wrong with both case and client that no lawyer took it the case in the first place. While not every pro se lawsuit is filed by a madman, enough of them are that pro se filing might raise a reasonable presumption of madness. “Mad” doesn’t mean “wrong,” but lawyers often will decline to invite more madness into their lives, even for a case that is a potential winner.

In the case at hand, Bennett notes that the pro se complaint (primarily against the TSA) not only covers the party who perpetrated the alleged wrong, but

Defendant Mary Frances Prevost (hereinafter “PREVOST”) was Plaintiff’s second criminal attorney. Plaintiff appreciates the fact that the criminal charges were finally dismissed and gives credit to PREVOST for helping to see that accomplished. Plaintiff is suing PREVOST at this time, however, for her unethical practices and for her failure to comply with Court orders. Plaintiff is willing to remove PREVOST as a defendant if she will apologize for her wrongs and simply speak honestly with Plaintiff so Plaintiff can properly prepare for her Federal lawsuit trial.

Mary Frances Prevost, by the way, was the lawyer who won the criminal case. Apparently, a simple thank you wasn’t enough.  So who wants to hop on this case?

What are the chances that the lessons Eric and Mark offer will find their way into some law school’s third-year curriculum?  By show of hands, how many lawprofs and deans are suitably versed in solo or small firm practice?  How many read either of these posts so they would have a clue? Never mind. We know the answer.

But wait, you say.  There are always adjuncts, real lawyers offering real world experience in the practice of law, to mold these minds of blob into practicing lawyers.  Well, that’s true. But based upon my highly scientific empirical analysis of law students, there is a problem.

By my estimates, about 60% of the students will be capable of accepting that real life isn’t unicorns and rainbows. They will understand that the law deals with real people, from the wonderful to the venal, the thoughtful to the batty.  That leaves 40% who will prove themselves not merely incapable of embracing life as it exists in the trenches, but offended by it.  How dare these nasty trench lawyers say mean things about clients, judges, Avvo, technology and each other.  They are passionate.  They are certain. They are a danger to themselves and others.  And they can’t bear to hear it.

Forty percent of law students being taught the practice of law are now crying, preparing their list of things that offend their sensibilities and running to the administration to demand that their world be cleansed of the nastiness of reality so they can graduate without ever hearing words that make their delicate ears hurt.

And they won’t like this post much either.