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December 14, 2015


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Orin Kerr

Googling around, it looks like a good number of law schools offer such a course.

I used this search query: "law practice management"


Law practice management would work well as the second part of the ethics requirement. I envision a 2L or 3L requirement of ethics/professionalism 1 & 2. Basic bookkeeping, setting up accounts, nuts and bolts of working with and employing secretaries and paralegals, how to build and maintain a file, cash flow planning, advertising and marketing, all would be useful to almost all students.

The schools are run by people who lack this experience and who don't even value it, I would be thrilled if someone were to boldly admit, "we built too many schools, enrolled too many students, assumed that they would all be employed as apprentice associates, and focused our research and teaching on broader social justice and policy analysis." This quote is indisputably true writ large, but it is taboo for anyone inside legal education to state it.

Ralph Clifford

We have offered the course at U.Mass., but I don't think it has been run recently. Considering our emphasis on post-law school practice support (the Justice Bridge program), this is somewhat surprising. When we did offer it, we had a local banker as the primary instructor.

Another similar course I've always wanted to have would be called "Everything Else You Need to Know to be a Lawyer." It would cover everything from dress code to restaurant and bar meeting etiquette to understanding investments.

Kyle McEntee

Ralph, We did a 2 hour dinner at Vanderbilt's alumni club 1L year (fall semester, I believe) that covered dress code and etiquette. I actually found it really helpful. If I were designing that sort of material for students, I would probably do similar 2-hour seminars through the three years. Noting that this next statement is completely unsupported, I would hope (think? believe?) that non-graded would instill/reiterate the importance of professionalism associated with "everything else."

I bet some schools do it that way. I'd be interested in learning about any of those programs -- required, connected programs not one-offs that check the boxes if people happen to go.

Scott Dodson

UC Hastings offers the course, taught by the magnificent scholar-teacher Morris Ratner. It is a student favorite.


As an aside on this - in a number of jurisdictions to be admitted as a lawyer or solicitor you are required to take an exam in practice management and legal practice accounting - I had to do it for some jurisdictions, and its that not easy.

Ilene Seidman & Jerry Slater, Suffolk Law School

Deborah Merritt is correct about the need to integrate law practice management into the law school curriculum. Students who are trained to deliver legal services more efficiently increase the value they offer employers and, more importantly, clients. In addition to increasing students’ likelihood of finding jobs in the traditional market, law students trained in cutting-edge legal technology and law practice management will be important innovators in addressing the nation’s justice gap by utilizing new practice models to represent average income individuals and families while earning a living.

For our part, Suffolk Law has introduced a three year program with a focus on law practice management, both in class and through clinical experience, to prepare students for the reality of modern practice-- the Accelerator. The Accelerator prepares students to create or enter solo or small private practices capable of profitably providing competent and affordable legal services to average income individuals and families upon graduation. The goal of the program is to introduce students to the theory, practice, business and technology skills needed to meet the legal needs of a huge untapped market of currently underserved clients. You can read more about our students’ experiences here.

The core components of the program include specialized professional development and law practice management instruction combined with successive practical training experiences, including training in an imbedded law practice within the law school (the “Accelerator Practice”). The Program emphasizes the role of technology in 21st century practice, as well as the range of business, marketing, billing, and client retention and process improvement skills needed for modern practice. Providing students the practical skills to start or join small practices—where the majority of lawyers across the country make their careers—is a primary way law schools can prepare graduates to serve their clients and society.

Sy Ablelman

Here is my two cents worth on a practical course for law students. 1. Every student should know how to get a client out of jail. 2. Every student should know how to hustle a bond slip (cash bond refund to an attorney) out of a Domestic Violence perpetrator who EXPECTS the prosecutor to DROP the charges because the paramour drove him to court and REFUSES to proceed with the charges. In other words, how to get a fee out of a "she hit me first" mope. 3. How to try a DUI. 4. How to restore a driver's license to a fourth time DUI client. 5. How to talk to an insurance adjuster from State Farm when they refuse to pay out a legitimate soft tissue claim. 6. How to hustle a handsome fee from a gangbanger dope dealer who is smarter than your average law dean. 7. How to laugh, joke and kibbutz with a judge... 8.How to plea bargain with an attitudinal prosecutor. 9. How to treat other attorneys, who all have families to support and crappy Bronze Level Obama Care Plans to pay for, not to mention student loans, in a fair manner.

Sy Ablelman

More advice to teach kids from a schlepper solo like me: Never steal from a client, even when gas is $4.39 a gallon and there is $1500 in that trust fund account even though you haven't signed up a new client in three weeks. You would be amazed at all the dopey attorneys who steal piddling amounts from a client and they get convicted and it is posted for all the world to see into perpetuity. Yes, you professors need to teach these kids what stealing means. Show them how a bar complaint gets posted on line and how a crappy, irrelevant website like AVVO will pick it up. And while we are at it, answering AVVO questions and having a 10 rating is crap and does not make you a decent, seasoned lawyer. That takes time and real work, not just a few lousy key strokes like what I am currently doing. Also, hands off female clients. They are clients, not romantic partners. That needs to be taught as well, unfortunately. Good night now, I have a long day ahead of me in 3 court houses.


Is the previous poster for real or is this all just a shtick?

Sy Ablelman

The mere asking that question, whether my two posts are shtick, means you are out of touch. It means you have never seen the inside of a court room or tried to earn a living representing mopes. Come to court with me or any practicing neighborhood lawyer. Open up the Yellow Pages. Check out AVVO for the perfect rankings attributed to some of your lowest ranked recent graduates. Check out any bar disciplinary web site and investigate for yourself. Attorneys get their tickets regularly punched for theft and inappropriate relationships. If you don't know how to get a client out of jail, you are nothing as a lawyer even if you practice transactional work involving Fortune 50 companies. There is nothing more important than getting somebody released from custody. Jail sucks.


Transactional lawyers don't do criminal work.

Deborah Merritt

I don't agree with every item on Sy's list, but there is a lot of truth to his comment in two senses: (1) This is the type of work that many law graduates do--and that society *needs* them to do--but most law faculty have little understanding of that work. Our failure to understand makes life harder for these graduates (and their clients) in many ways. (2) Every law student should spend several hours shadowing a criminal defense attorney--including a visit to the jail to visit a client or bail one out. People who work with the law should know first hand how that law touches citizens with its rawest strength. Seeing the impact of the bail system first hand (including its differential impact on minority citizens and the poor) is much more powerful than talking about it in a seminar.

I would add other items to a list of "must have" experiences, drawn from other practice areas, but I want to note the strength of Sy's comment.


Having worked in small law for the last 4 years I can attest that Sy Ableman's comments are spot on. Legions of crappy solo attorneys steal money from the IOLTA accounts and engage in all sorts of other terrible behavior. Just look at the admonitions section of your local bar, and those are only the ones that got caught.

However, the answer is not to teach them otherwise, it is to rid the profession of them. Unfortunately, schools accept and graduate all manner of idiots in order to get 3 years of tuition money and they don't care about the downstream consequences.

The easy way to end these issues is to make the bar exam significantly harder. I would make it equivalent in difficulty to a 165 on the LSAT. That would at least eliminate the buffoonish malfeasance of bottom-feeder attorneys, although higher level fraud/theft would still be a concern.


Another modest proposal:

If we are not going to actually reform legal education, perhaps we could have an LLM on how to practice law. Students could learn about who owns the fox, and the hairy hand, and Palsgraf, and Pennoyer, and minimum contacts, and jurisprudence in their JD programs. Then, they could spend 2 years in a practical program on how to actually practice law, including office management.


Mojo. I believe there are such LLM programs. Of course, an LLM cost money so why would we want to burden students with that cost when fuses courses and skills should be taught in all JD programs.

As for whether Sy is for real, I think he is and I agree that the fact some academics here question that shows how far removed from reality they are.


It strikes you doofusses as odd that a law school to stay open for the long haul might adjust its admissions standards down in bad times or up in good times?

If we are oh so concerned about alleged exploitation of minorities with less than stellar test scores at our esteemed institutions of higher education why not start at the doors to the football or basketball locker rooms?


Because athletes aren't expected to be trained to be licensed fiduciaries.


4:48 Anon: Huh?

Cent Rieker

"It strikes you doofusses as odd that a law school to stay open for the long haul might adjust its admissions standards down in bad times or up in good times?"

It doesn't strike this 'doofus' as remotely odd that Ivy League educated rent-seekers would resort to desperate measures to keep revenue coming, with their interests of their incoming students, or the well-being of the future clients some of them may represent be damned, while yelling about the unfairness of the bar exam and accusing any critics of such esteemed legal profession feeders as Whittier as being racist.

The overwhelming majority of you care about neither the profession nor your incoming students nor the tax payer that you bilk through IBR and PAYE, as demonstrated by that comment.

To you as long as you can maintain your salaries and comfortable jobs, you couldn't care less about lower academic standards (maybe because moron lawyers can't literally kill someone like a possible idiot doctor can, which is why you don't wouldn't see medical schools resort to such behavior).

Now I'll get back to your red herring of ensuring Division 1 NCAA football and basketball players receive compensation, in lieu of being free farm systems for the NBA and NFL (because somehow voicing opposition to low ranked law schools exploiting students is mutually exclusive to the NCAA's lack of compensating their players).

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