I Would Have Been More Prepared to Go Solo If I Learned This in Law School

By Joleena Louis - August 26, 2015
I Would Have Been More Prepared to Go Solo If I Learned This in Law School

This week in Things I Wish I Knew, Joleena Louis, discusses 4 skills lawyers need when starting a solo law practice that she wish she learned in law school.

Its that time of year again! My Instagram feed has been flooded with first day of school pics from 1Ls. This got me reminiscing about my days at Hofstra Law.

While I feel like I received a great legal education, now that I am a solo, there are several things I wish I learned in law school to better prepare me for starting a solo law practice.

Business Skills

I really wish there I was required to take a basic business class. Learning basic business skills (accounting, business administration and marketing) would have been incredibly helpful when starting a solo law practice. Having an understanding of the business side of running a practice – even as an associate – will make you a better attorney.

Having an understanding of the business side of law will make you a better attorney. Click To Tweet

Networking Skills

In law school I attended many networking events (mostly for the free food and alcohol). I would leave these events with a ton of business cards, but no idea what to do with them or how to follow up.

I learned basic networking skills through trial and error only after starting my practice. But I think I could have jump-started my career, and possibly had better job opportunities right out of law school,, if I learned proper networking skills in law school.

Time Management Skills

The time management skills you need in law school are very different than the ones you need in the real world of practicing law. In law school I had to balance studying with attending class and my very limited social life. My solution was to schedule everything, and it was easy to get everything done.

But once I started practicing in the real world, even before going solo, I had to learn how to get my work done while dealing with interruptions from my boss, co-workers and clients. And that got even more complicated when I started my own practice and had to take on the additional demands of running a business.

Learning these skills in law school would have made the real world transition less overwhelming.

Legal theory is important, but you can’t “be” a lawyer without practical skills. Click To Tweet

Practical Legal Skills

While I had to prepare many memos and briefs in law school, I only had one class that taught me the skills I needed to actually do my job: preparing pleadings, discovery documents and other basic legal documents that I would be preparing on a regular basis; taking or defending depositions; managing client intake; or even how to efile documents with the Court.

Legal theory is important, but you can’t “be” a lawyer without practical skills. I learned most of these skills at internships and at my first job, not in school.

I graduated Hofstra Law in 2010, so maybe things have improved. More and more new attorneys are starting practices right out of law school, or after a few years of practicing.

Students would benefit from learning these basic skills in law school to give them a head start in their future careers as solos.

About Joleena Louis

Joleena Louis is a matrimonial and family law attorney at Joleena Louis Law, a firm she founded after leaving a boutique matrimonial firm in Brooklyn. Joleena is a client in Law Firm Suites’ Financial District location. Her weekly blog series Things I Wish I Knew... explores her thought process and experiences in her transition from small law firm employee to successful solo practice entrepreneur. Follow Joleena on Twitter.

2 thoughts on “I Would Have Been More Prepared to Go Solo If I Learned This in Law School

  1. CJ Stevens
    on said:

    U of Montana’s School of Law has two programs to help students transition to real-world legal work. The first is the ‘law firm’ approach, where groups of 6 – 8 1st years meet regularly with their 3rd year leader. Discussions, practice role-plays, and written assignments introduced us to details that class time couldn’t accommodate. Third years had internships with law firms, legal departments, or with judges. By the time we graduated, we had done a lot of writing for the Legal Rhythm & Blues prof (legal research and writing). By the time we graduated, our internships had involved drafting docs, interviewing clients, etc. I interned at Mt Legal Services, so I did a little of everything the office handled — dissolution of marriage, SSI/D, contested custody, child support, landlord-tenant, running errands for the office manager. “Errands” might seem demeaning to you, but it great nuts and bolts work for a student going solo first rattle out of the box.

    • That sounds like a great program! Like I said, I graduated 5 years ago so I hope programs like that are standard now.

      And I certainly don’t find errands demeaning. Starting out as a solo you have to be prepared to do everything yourself!

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