While some of the best lessons of lawyers are learned from dealing with real life experiences, there would (at least in my opinion) be some benefit if law schools taught students some more practical skills, especially skills that MBA’s learn as they go through business school. Even if it would mean another year of law school, whether it be a year of classes or a required internship, I feel that had I had learned some of the more practical skills of lawyering, I would have been a bit better prepared even though some lessons just have to be learned over time. Anyway, here are a few skills that I think would have been helpful for me as someone who has worked for both a large law firm as well as a boutique firm, in addition to running my own business.
It doesn’t matter what size law firm you work for, the knowledge of billing is essential. Your success will depend on your annual billable hours as most of the revenue that a law firm receives from charging clients by the hour… and if you aren’t doing your job right with billing, then you aren’t earning. Doesn’t matter if you decide not to bill by the hour a billing is still a necessity since you need to come up with some way of making money for the work you perform, whether it’s a flat fee or some other arrangement, which means figuring out your time, how much its worth, etc.
This skill is very much related to the previous skill of billing. While not as essential if you work for a large firm, if you are working for a smaller firm, or run a solo practice, then this is quite important. You need to figure out if you’re profitable, what your expenses are, how to spend the money coming in (do you bring it into income or put it back to trying to grow the business).
Being a lawyer is more than just understanding the written law or how to apply it. If you want to be successful in law, you need to have good social skills. Whether you realize it or not, when you start out as an associate, you’ll be graded on your ability to handle yourself in social situations. That means when you get an invitation from a partner, it isn’t optional and you need to know how to treat them. As you grow in the law firm, you’ll need to know how to work with clients. Social skills are what allow you to be successful as a lawyer when you network, whether it’s with other lawyers or potential clients. Additionally, have good social skills will help you with the next important skill…
Marketing is essential and is more difficult than people realize. Knowing how to do marketing will allow you to land the big job at that large law firm or help you with bringing in additional business if you’re running solo.
Would love to hear in the comments what skills you think law school do teach to better prepare students for the business aspect of being a lawyer!
- Why Having Clients When You Start A Law Firm Isn’t Always The Nirvana You May Imagine (abovethelaw.com)
- As Clients Speak, Who’s Listening? (thelawyerbubble.com)