If there’s one thing most lawyers agree on, it’s that law school taught them very little about actually practicing law and running a law firm. In fact, this very issue was discussed during a recent presentation at my alma mater, Albany Law School, when Villanova Law Professor Michelle Pistone spoke to the Albany Law School faculty on the topic of “How Emerging Innovations Will Disrupt Legal Education.” During her presentation, she stressed how little law school education has changed despite rapid technological advancements. She asked attendees, “In light of these changes, have law schools changed enough?” Her response? “Law schools have not changed much in the last 100 years.”
Professor Pistone is not alone in her observations. In fact, there’s a growing debate amongst law professors these days about the importance of teaching practical skills in law school. That this debate is occurring is a promising sign since the first step to fixing a problem is to acknowledge it. The next step, of course, is to identify the practical knowledge that law schools are failing to teach their graduates and then arm newly graduated lawyers with the resources and knowledge needed to fill in the gaps.
So what exactly are the skills that law schools are failing to teach? I would suggest that, more often than not, freshly minted attorneys lack knowledge related to the practical, day-to-day skills needed to run a successful law practice. In other words, most new graduates lack the law practice management skills necessary for sustaining a profitable, busy law practice in the long run.
10 things you didn’t learn in law school
- Back office accounting
- How to track and bill time ethically & effectively
- Managing employees
- The importance of networking
- The importance of mentors
- How to effectively communicate with clients
- How to choose the right law firm technology for your firm
- How to run law office in cost-effective, efficient manner using emerging technologies
- How to market your law practice
- How to be a rainmaker
Now that we’ve identified the knowledge gaps, let’s take the next step. Starting next week, I’ll examine each of these skills in turn over the next few months in 10-part series of blog posts (the completed post are now linked to above). In each post, you’ll learn why a particular skill is important and I’ll suggest resources and information for lawyers seeking to increase their knowledge about that skill.
Next week, in the first installment of this series, we’ll focus on billing and back office accounting systems. You’ll learn how important an effective accounting system is to running an efficient and profitable law practice. We’ll find out what lawyers really want from billing and accounting systems and will explore how accounting systems can be effectively integrated into the day-to-day aspects of running a law practice. We’ll also summarize our findings in a handy infographic, so tune in next week for Part 1 of this series!