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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

"Five Years"

A Professor walked into class today and began by saying, "I am entitled to one free op-ed a year. Now I've probably used more than that already, but I'm going to rant today."

And then he gave us his 6 essential lessons on being a lawyer.

I have done the best I can to rewrite his speech, and I probably did not do it the justice it deserves. But I think it important that more than those fortunate enough to have him as a professor get to hear what he has to say. For this reason I have done my best to faithfully--though definitely not completely--recreate that lecture here.

He began with the two words: "Five Years."

1. You are not a real lawyer until about 5 years after you graduate.

Give yourself five years of making mistakes and freaking out before you finally become a decent lawyer. That doesn't mean that after 5 years you won't make any more mistakes, it just means you won't freak out when you do. When you make a mistake, fix it. Don't ignore it and hope no one will find it. Just fix it and move on. But after 5 years--between 3 and 7 years out of law school--you will be at your most marketable. You've just spent 5 years making mistakes on someone else's malpractice insurance. That's when people are really willing to hire you, and that brings me to my next point . . .

2. Never stop looking for your next job.

I don't care how much you love where you are, very very few people work for the same firm for 30 years. Keep checking the papers, the journals, register with a good headhunter and then check up on what they may have for you. No matter how happy you think you are, you never know you may be happy somewhere else. Just keep your options open; never stop looking for your next job.

3. Never be afraid to ask for money.

Each hour of your time given to the work of a client, even a friend, takes an hour away from you, your family, your life. Your time is all you have. So every time you let a client walk away with 2 free hours of your time you die a little. And while that 2 hours may not mean much, a lifetime later you can look back on all of the time you gave away by taking that time from you and your family and it will make you miserable.

4. Learn to say "no."

We are all lawyers, we are all people pleasers. We hate to say anything but, "yes." You have to learn to tell your family no. Churches, organizations, you have to tell them, "no" or they'll have you on every committee, doing every job imaginable because you are a lawyer. I once had to fire a minister. You want to talk about a bad feeling, try walking into a pastor's office, looking at him with that big picture of Jesus behind him, and telling him he's being kicked out of his house. That will teach you to say "no."

5. You can't have everything.

You can be competent in a lot of things. You can be pretty good in a couple of things. The truth is most of us will not be the best lawyers in the state of Texas. Don't try. Take comfort in that. Be the best father, the best mother, the best boy scout leader, whatever . . . Next time you see a picture on the front page of a magazine of Mr. "Big Shot Lawyer" stop and think: I wander what his wife thinks of him? What is kids think of him? When was the last time his neighbors borrowed his lawn mower? When was the last time he got to read a book? Or take a nap? The look at what you have that he probably doesn't. And be happy.

6. Finally, don't compartmentalize your life.

Just remember this: Being a lawyer is the greatest job in the world. You aren't digging for coal, you aren't picking cotton--that makes this a good job! You come here for three years and you leave and get to wear nice clothes, drive nice cars, and everybody thinks you are smart. You may be the worst lawyer in the world but you ask your aunt or uncle and they'll smile and think you're a genius. In nothing else can 3 years of education get you all of the benefits that law school does. And, just between you and me, you really don't learn a whole lot in those 3 years either. Being a lawyer is absolutely the greatest job in the world. Go out and enjoy it!


Blogger The Namby Pamby said...

good speech.

4/26/2006 6:12 PM  
Blogger prettylawchick said...

one of the very few inspirational law school posts...and it actually does make me feel a little better :) thanks!

4/26/2006 6:45 PM  

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