You learn a lot in law school. By graduation, the average student will have read thousands of pages of case law, will have spent months on legal writing and maybe will have taken a class on negotiations or other business-based legal skills.
But there are also plenty of skills, skills essential to success as a lawyer, which go untaught. Here's our list of the five of some of the most important skills you don't learn in law school:
1. How to Lawyer
Sure, law school teaches you how to think, write, read, even drink like a lawyer. But it often doesn't teach you how to accomplish the actual work of a lawyer. New JDs may know the test for determining whether implied federal preemption invalidates state law, but most won't know where to go to file the lawsuit over it. The nuts and bolts of daily practice are skills law schools typically ignore. Thankfully, clinics and trial practice allow students to pick these up on the side.
2. How to Plan for Your Career
Yes, every law school has a career counseling office, and some of them are great at helping students figure out what sort of jobs they want and how to get them. But, very few actually focus on long-term career planning. Future lawyers should think not just a year ahead, but five.
3. How to Communicate With Clients
Communicating with clients involves levying a variety of personal and professional skills, from assessing the client's unstated concerns and priorities, to having difficult conversations about the likelihood of a case succeeding. There's also ethical and professional considerations, such as how to speak with clients who may be skirting the law.
4. How to Manage Finances
Schools might have a stake in keeping law students ignorant about this, given how much they charge, but learning to manage finances is an invaluable skill that all lawyers should develop. Whether it's balancing a solo practices' accounts, or figuring out how to repay your loans, financial knowledge is essential to lawyers' practice and well being.
5. How to Stay Healthy
Lawyering is largely a desk job and often a demanding one. Not only will you be sitting around a lot, you often won't have time to hit up the gym as much as you once did (or planned on doing). Oh, and then there's the profession's rampant alcoholism. Lawyers who develop healthy habits before they graduate will hopefully avoid packing on the pounds after graduation.