Generally speaking, law school does not prepare you for most of the realities most people face in practicing law. As an Asheville personal injury lawyer, I have learned almost everything I know about practicing law since graduating from law school; from other attorneys, organizations, seminars, books and DVD’s. However, law school provided me with a few important skills that I have applied to my practice. Here is a short list:
How to “think like an attorney”.
You hear this a lot, but what does it mean? For me, I learned to view legal issues from both sides of the argument. As an example, a potential client called this morning and asked about a common problem for an Asheville personal injury attorney: He was injured in a car crash on October 1, 2014. He has not been to a doctor since that time and called me today, October 27. That’s 26 days after the car crash. Predictably, the insurance company for the at fault driver is refusing to pay for any medical treatment because they are saying it has been too long since the crash. Prior to law school I may have viewed this situation as totally unfair and taken the man’s case and argued that the crash caused the injury. Law school helped me view the argument from the other side. I explained to the potential client that without seeing a doctor for 26 days that it will be hard to prove the injuries are a result of the crash. They could have been caused sometime after the crash. Without doctor’s notes, it would be hard to prove that he was experiencing an injury during those 26 days. To me, “thinking like an attorney” means seeing more than just your own argument, and making decisions based on a careful review of all possible arguments.
How to patiently learn the details of things that are really, really boring.
In law school, you will have to take courses on things that are really not interesting. Tax Law. Corporate Law. Imagine learning tax law for 6 months and needing to understand it so thoroughly that you can get a good grade? I didn’t learn anything particularly helpful in Tax Law, especially as an Asheville personal injury lawyer. However, I learned how to be patient with difficult and mind-numbing material. This helps me in my own practice when I have to learn the ins and outs of insurance subrogation and how it interacts with state and federal laws, Medicare and Medicaid. Equally boring, but necessary for my practice.
The importance of preparation.
In law school, often your entire grade will be determined during a 2-3 hour exam, most of which will be essays. The amount of preparation needed to get an A on this type of exam is a incredible. I learned to synthesize 6 months worth of class notes from lectures into a 5 page outline that was designed for memorization, to help me answer questions on any topic for that course. There was so much information on the exam that I memorized mneumonics to help me remember everything that was in the course. I memorized elements of laws, the purpose of laws, and caselaw. No, I don’t remember hardly any of it anymore. No, I don’t look back at my law school notes, ever. But I learned how to prepare for a trial because I learned how to prepare, which is essential for an Asheville personal injury attorney.
Although law school does not really teach much substance (unless you want to be a professor someday), it does teach skills. Skills that are very useful as an Asheville personal injury attorney. If you are considering law school, or is you are in law school now, try to look at the bigger picture. Three years and $140,000 doesn’t seem so pointless once you understand exactly what you’ll get from it.
James Minick is a criminal defense attorney in Asheville, NC and is the owner of Minick Law, P.C.