ProfMomEsq … Without the “Prof”? For Now.

About a week ago, I taught my last class for the quarter.  I am grading my last set of papers, and tomorrow I will post my last set of grades.  I will sort through, discard or pack away my teaching materials and notes.  I have a box filled with article clippings, Post-It notes, napkin notes and hastily sketched diagrams for the textbook I was writing that never got past Chapter 3.  I’ve been standing in the front of a classroom, chalk, dry eraser marker, laser pointer, projector remote in hand at least one day per week, every week for the past twelve years.

But, it’s time for a break.

I thought I was mentally prepared for this break.  As a practical matter, it is necessary.  I just do not have the time needed to do a proper job of teaching these classes with all the kids have going on and with my (not part-time) work schedule.  But, on a more personal level, I need a time-out.  I could feel myself losing patience with students now and again.  I have lost my patience with this idea of treating students as “customers” or “consumers” to help increase program enrollment in an increasingly competitive higher education market.  I was less and less able to avoid procrastinating on the grading of papers, and the feedback I provided felt too light.  I stopped reading my usual plethora of articles on teaching, learning, legal technology and legal research.  My draft textbook wasn’t the place I went to “get away” from my other work anymore.  Instead, it felt like “more work.”

But, on my last night of class, as I gave my usual end-of-the-quarter, thanks-for-being-here, final-exam pep talk, I couldn’t stop the tears.  Oh, don’t panic.  It’s not like I got ugly-cry-face in front of my students or anything.  I just got a little misty.  One reason is that this particular group of students was amazing.  No whining, no complaining, lots of participation, good collective sense of humor, truly engaged.  It’s hard not to think the Fates sent me a message I am about to ignore.  Another reason is that I will actually miss teaching – the lectures and group activities where the student-teacher interaction lends itself to the proverbial light-bulb flickering, flickering, flickering then finally shining with all its wattage.  It is thrilling to watch that happen.  I do, in fact, get goosebumps, and I will miss those moments quite a lot.  But, a bigger part of my sadness comes from this: for the first time since I was five years old, I will not be in school.  It hit me, as I said goodbye to these students, that a 35-year run was coming to an end.  I am actually leaving the only job I ever really loved:  being a student.  Though I moved my desk from one side of the room to the other when I first became an adjunct lecturer, I never stopped being a student, and I never stopped learning.

On my first draft of this blog post, I wrote a list of things I’ve learned over 35 years of being a student and 12 years of being an adjunct.  As you can imagine, the length of the blog quickly got out of hand (even for me).  So, I am using this post simply to introduce what I hope to be a series of posts about teaching as a profession, the importance and means of learning, program evaluation, and curriculum structure.  I hope it bears some good advice for students, some good advice for teachers old and new, and some good advice for the directors and deans who run degree or certificate programs in law-related fields (and beyond).

For now, I will say only this.  I had many successes as a student.  I’ve had some successes as a lawyer.  But, all that pales in comparison to the emails, notes or telephone calls I’ve received over the years from former students, thanking me for what they’d learned in my class.  There is no greater compliment.  There is no greater affirmation of my work.  There is no greater joy than knowing you helped someone in a significant way.  I am so grateful to have had the chance to make that kind of difference.

Verb, Scalpel, Diction, Hammer: ProfMomEsq’s Rules of Grammar (And Other Stuff)

I’ve spent some time lately considering how I might distill some of the writing advice I give to legal writing students or new lawyers. I think this list represents the most important tips I can give, but I’d love you to add your thoughts/advice in the comments. I’d also like to add a disclaimer.

While I am writing this, I’m having a cocktail and exchanging Twitter haikus with my cyber-sister @jillsmo (who writes a really damn funny blog here), so if some of my sentences seem a little matchy-matchy or strangely rhythmic, it’s her fault.

Okay …

1. Wield Your Pen (or Keyboard) Like a Scalpel Not a Sledgehammer. If having surgery, would you prefer the doctor just cut you open willy-nilly or would you rather the surgeon made a single incision as precisely as possible? (If you’d like to be cut open willy-nilly, this metaphor will be totally lost on you, so just skip to #2.) Choose your words with the precision of a surgeon. Don’t leave your reader scarred by your random musings (unless you write a super-witty, extraordinarily useful, and crafty blog like I do). Get to the point, and make sure your words actually convey your intended meaning. Be a minimalist, and keep it simple.

2. Write As If Your Mother Will Read It (a/k/a Don’t Be An Asshole). We’ve all received a communication from someone who pissed us right the fuck off. You know you still smart at the one letter or email that was the equivalent of a red flag waving at your inner bull. Not long ago, I stopped speaking on the telephone to opposing counsel for one of my cases, because he insisted on screaming at me on the phone. So, he instead resorted to writing me emails IN ALL CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (just like that). He was begging for a smack down of epic proportions, and I was itching to do it. Instead, I walked away from my computer and into my boss’s office, vented then collected myself, and responded simply and only to the issue that needed to be addressed. When opposing counsel and I later got into a discovery dispute that resulted in the attachment of his lovely emails as an exhibit to a motion, I wasn’t embarrassed, and I wasn’t dressed down by the judge. In open court. On the record. In front of a full courtroom.

When you write in response to something that starts feeling a little too personal, remember these two things:

Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves. — Confucius

Strong and bitter words indicate a weak cause. — Victor Hugo

You might succeed in making opposing counsel (or to whomever your missive is directed) as angry as you are by figuratively ripping his/her face off with your acerbic wit, but what you are not going to do is impress a third party (i.e., the judge). And, that kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? The best revenge is success, so stick to making your important point and save the Snarky McSnarkerson for Twitter. Or your blog. Don’t unleash her in your professional writing.

3. Since ≠ Because. I frequently see these words used interchangeably, even by writers I consider to be quite good at their craft. But, the words are not synonyms. Since refers to a temporal relationship between two events. For example, if I write, “John gained ten pounds since he quit smoking,” the words describe an event occurring during a period of time between the day John quit smoking and the day the sentence is written — those two points in time define when John gained some weight. However, the sentence does not convey the cause of John’s weight gain. If that’s what you take from the sentence, it is an assumption not an inference. (See Point 4, below.) However, because refers to a cause/effect or correlative relationship. If I write, “John gained ten pounds because he quit smoking,” the sentence expresses a connection between quitting smoking and stuffing your face full of Hostess chocolate mini-donuts. Not that I would know this from any kind of personal experience. At all. WHAT?!

4. Inference ≠ Assumption. This concept is best illustrated by example. My son and I are home. There is no one else in the house. I bake a cake. I leave the whole cake on the kitchen counter and exit the room. When I return, there is a piece of cake missing. I know these facts: (1) I am home; (2) my son is home, (3) no one else is in the house, (4) a piece of cake is gone, and (5) I did not eat it. From those facts and by a process of deductive reasoning, I infer that my son took the piece of missing cake. (I have no evidence he actually consumed it.) Now, let’s say that I am home, my son is home and my husband is home. I bake a cake. I leave the whole cake on the kitchen counter and exit the room. When I return, a single slice of cake is missing. I cannot infer that my son took the cake, because it is equally possible that my husband took it. If I conclude that my son took the cake, I am making an assumption, not drawing an inference. See? Inference, good. Assumption, bad. You know what your mom told you happens when you assume …

5. Your ≠ You’re. Your is a possessive pronoun describing something belonging to you. You’re is a contraction of you and are. As in: Please proofread your work if you’re going to post it, because there’s always some Reddy McRed-Pen down the comment thread.

3. Don’t Use Five Words When One Will Do. You’d think it would be challenging to clear your throat in writing, but I see this a lot in the form of cumbersome, unnecessary phrases that reduce simply to if or because: due to the fact that, in the event that, should it come to pass that. Quit writing this crap. It’s lawyer-like (or “professional”-sounding) only because (not “to the extent that”) it is a textbook example of lawyers’ bad writing habits. When you use phrases like this, the words have the same effect on your reader that a lot of ums, uhs and other verbal tics have on a speaker’s listeners. It reads like you’re tripping over yourself and are unsure about your point, which sucks if you want your writing to inspire a reader’s confidence in you.

4. Use Strong, Active Verbs. Nothing waters down your writing faster than weak verbs. First, learn how to form past-tense verbs to avoid past perfect and past perfect progressive verbs that aren’t as powerful as the past-tense conjugation of an irregular verb. For example:

Neither of the parties had knowledge that the gun was loaded.

Why use three words – “had knowledge that” to convey what is said with one – “knew”? The stronger sentence is:

Neither party knew the gun was loaded.

Second, use a verb that actually describes the action your subject is doing to your object. For example, consider the difference between these two sentences:

ProfMomEsq hurt her toe.

ProfMomEsq stubbed her toe.

Both sentences convey the idea that I was hurt, but the second one is far more descriptive of how I was hurt without adding any additional words. After reading the first sentence, you think, Bummer. I like that ProfMomEsq lady. Too bad she hurt her toe. But, after reading the second one, you think, Oh! Ouch! I hate it when I do that shit! Sucks! See? It’s like magic!

Third, avoid the passive voice. For example:

Paralegals may be employed by a law firm to perform tasks sometimes performed by lawyers.

No good my friends, because the subject and object of this sentence are backward. Who is doing the employing? The law firm. Who is employed? The paralegals. Hotel. Motel. Holiday Inn. If your friend is actin’ up … Switch!

A law firm may employ paralegals to perform tasks sometimes performed by lawyers.

Unless, you know, you want your writing to read like Yoda wrote it. Then, by all means, please put your objects at the beginning of your sentence. Irritate the shit out of your reader, you will. But, it’s your paper …

5. Proofread ≠ Spellcheck (or Vice Versa). You MUST do both. Period. End of discussion. Because I said so, that’s why. You will sit there until you clear your plate. Now, put a sweater on. It’s cold in here.

6. Quotation Marks – Learn Who’s in the Club and Who Isn’t. Period: in. Semi-colon: out. Question mark: in if it’s actually part of the quote, otherwise out. Comma: in. Yes, it is that simple.

7. The Abbreviation A.M. and the Words “In the Morning” Should Not Appear in the Same Sentence. It’s called redundancy, people. No likey. It’s bad bad.

8. Stop Capitalizing Words that Aren’t Capitalized. There is no better way to announce to a reader your uncertainty about the meaning of a word than to capitalize a noun that does not need capitalizing. This epidemic may afflict only the writing of new legal writers, but I see it enough that it makes my list. If you don’t know, look it up. If you have to guess, err on the side of using the lower case, unless the word is the first one in your sentence. (And, I really, really hope that last part went without saying. But, just in case.)

9. If You Have to Point Out How Clear or Important Something Is, It’s Not. Sentences that start like this — “Clearly, it is important to note that” — are usually followed by a point that is neither clear nor important. Make your words get a dollar out of 15 cents. Choose words that make the point both clear and important – not because you said so, but because the articulation of your reasoning makes it so.

10. Buy a Dictionary, then Use It as Something Other than a Doorstop. Please.

#Writing as a Process: Betty S. Flowers’ Madman, Architect, Carpenter and Judge

No matter how many times I tell students that writing is a process and that first drafts will never be good enough, they generally refuse to believe me.  They also are, as evidence suggests, quite skeptical about my ability to instantly identify writing that is a first draft.  (TIP: spell-checking and proofreading are two very different things.  Ask the student who continually mistyped public as pubic throughout his final memo.  And for the love of Hemingway, your and you’re are two different words, but spell-check does not know that. You, however, having graduated from elementary school, should!)

So, a few years ago, I adopted a somewhat paternalistic approach to the final memo assignment for my legal writing students.  I assign a closed-universe, single-main-issue memo and give the students a week to do their pre-writing work – reading, briefing, issue-spotting, outlining.  Then, I meet one-on-one with each student to help him/her with that pre-writing process. I use the word help somewhat loosely here.  More than anything, the meeting forces the students to engage in some pre-writing process, because they a) must show up, b) must bring outlines, notes or charts but not a draft, and c) must answer my questions about their writing plans.  So, it’s a sort of passive-aggressive kind of help.

While requiring this meeting effectively prevents procrastination and catches wayward analyses before they sled off course in Ethan Frome proportions, it doesn’t seem as effective at teaching students the important connection between the pre-writing and the actual writing of the memo.  I haven’t quite found a way to persuade students that pre-writing is not a project completely isolated from writing.  For each effort I make to explain how and why pre-writing and writing should scaffold, I hear at least one student uttering these words:  But, how do I start?!

Huh? Why don’t you see that’s what you’ve been doing the past week??

My frustration with my inability to teach students past this hurdle is magnified, because I know what the students feel.  I know the angst of a blinking cursor, pulsing in time with the dull ache in your brain, as you stare at the blank Word document that is clearly mocking you.  I know the taste of lukewarm, hours-old coffee choked down at 2:00 a.m. in a desperate attempt to stave off the beckoning warmth and security of a blanket and pillow.   I know the nagging doubt – the lack of confidence in your competence or intelligence – that pollutes your mind and robs you of words when you are drafting work that will be judged – academically or literally.  I know the first sentence is often the hardest one to write.

But, I also know I found a way to get past that. So, I pilfered my memory for some resource that might help. And there it was – a fabulous essay I read a while back by Betty S. Flowers, titled Madman, Architect, Carpenter, Judge:  Roles and the Writing Process.    She captures the writing process – from inception to completion — in such a perfect set of analogies.

To my aspiring writers (especially those with a legal analysis memorandum due next week) I say:  Read this essay, then follow Ms. Flowers’ advice, and let your inner madman out.  Write whatever comes out of your head, in any order, even if it has absolutely nothing to do with your topic.  Don’t self-edit during this time.  That can come later – much later – as you transition to each of the other roles.  No one will ever know what you wrote in your first (or second or third draft) – that is the magic of the “Delete” key.  Let it be as simple as moving words from your outline to a blank document — because it really is.

Thinking About Law School? Ask the Right Questions.

Students frequently ask me for advice about going to law school.  The student’s mouth says, “Should I go to law school?”  But his or her mind (and heart) is really only looking for affirmation of the decision to go —  a decision made well before asking me for advice.

I hate this question for two main reasons.  First, I know what I say ultimately will be rejected out of disbelief or disregard.  Second, I know that my answer is dream-killing.  So, at the end of the conversation, the student is bitter, and I feel like a jerk.  But, I promise that what I say is true, not only from my experiences as a law student and a lawyer but from my experiences of serving on a law school admissions committee and educating future lawyers.  I serve it up here with the hope that you really consider these things before sending in those applications.

1.  You Probably Are Not Ready to Make This Big a Decision. If you’re the average law school applicant, you are about 23 years old.  That’s old enough to drink yourself stupid, vote, join the military, maybe even rent a car in some states.  You’ve graduated from college — probably at the top of your class — and you think you know everything.  So of course you know you want to go to law school.  Well, no matter how smart you are – or think you are – you cannot predict the future.  Are you going to get married?  Will you buy a home?  Will you have children?  Will you stay in the state where you live now or move away? What type of law do you want to practice?  In what type of place? The decisions about going to law school (especially if you are taking on debt to do it), where to go to law school, and where to practice law significantly impact many other decisions in your life and not always in a positive or predictable way.  Among the very worst reasons to go to law school is that you just don’t know what else to do with your undergraduate degree or yourself after college graduation.  You seriously limit your options when you come out the other side of a J.D. $100,000 in debt, especially if you are also painfully aware that you don’t really want to be a lawyer.  Before you make a decision of this magnitude, take some time off.  Expand your horizons a little, get some perspective and — better yet — some professional experience.  If you still really want to go to law school, a five or ten-year gap between college and law school won’t make as big a difference to your law school admission or employment prospects as it will to you and the quality of your life.

2.  Law School Is Not College.  Law school admission is a competitive process.  The number of applicants for most schools exceeds the number of available seats.  Consequently, many law schools can cherry-pick applicants to construct an incoming class comprising the best of the best from colleges and universities around the nation and world.  When you went to college, you were surrounded by students of widely varying abilities and levels of preparation.  If you were a naturally good student, rising above the crowd wasn’t all that hard to do.  Believe me, I’ve graded enough undergraduate papers now to know this is true.  But, when you go to law school, you are surrounded by people who are at least as smart and probably smarter than you.  They were all in the top ten percent of their respective classes.  Now, some of those ten-percenters will be on the other end of the spectrum.  Someone must be the bottom of the curve, and your instructors do not give a damn that you were a straight-A student in whatever irrelevant thing you studied before you got to law school.  They know full well you were a rock star where you came from or you wouldn’t be standing there now, whining about your B+ (which was earned and not given by the way).  Trust me, what that professor is thinking, as s/he explains why your undergraduate performance no longer matters, is that if you don’t understand the apple-to-orange analysis you are advocating, you are Exhibit A to why your grade is not a mistake.

3.  College was Hard, Law School is Harder, but Law Practice Is a MF’er.  You think college was hard?  You have no idea.  Your law professors will assign you 150 pages of more of reading per week, per class without blinking.  There will be few papers, no extra credit assignments and no feedback.  You will read, you will “discuss,” then you will be tested in the highest-stake and most subjective exam format there is — a single set of essays determining your entire course grade.  If you attend a law school following a more traditional curriculum, a fair percentage of subjects tested on the Bar exam are not required courses.  If you survive to graduation, you will take that little state quiz standing between you and gainful employment as a lawyer, having to learn most of the material covered on the exam for the first time during an eight-week “review” course.  And yet, that all pales in comparison to the first time you draft or oppose and argue a motion upon which someone’s emotional, financial or literal life depends.  As you handle a case of this magnitude, you will long for the days where your biggest concern was your Torts outline.  The first time I had to defend a client doctor against a malpractice claim by deposing the plaintiff – a woman dying of breast cancer, bald from chemotherapy and too emotionally drained to stop herself from crying through the entire thing – I realized that law school and the Bar exam were almost a sick joke.  Law school does not offer an elective in Asshole 101, and I wouldn’t have taken it anyway.  [Insert joke here about how I would’ve aced it.  Go ahead.]

4.  Law School Does Little to Teach You About Being a Lawyer.  Law school is great for sharpening (but not teaching) reading comprehension skills, logical reasoning skills and critical thinking skills.  It will probably help you build stamina for the long work hours law practice requires.  It may make you more comfortable speaking in public.  If you’re exceptionally lucky, you might learn a thing or two about legal research and legal writing.  Outside of that, however, there is precious little about a law school curriculum that actually prepares you for the work of being a lawyer.  There is not a damn thing about Laurence Tribe’s triangular theory of hearsay that will be of remote help in asserting or refuting such an objection in court. I’ve yet to meet a freshly minted lawyer who knows jack about drafting an admissible declaration in support of a motion, having an intelligible conversation with a client (who is an actual human being, not a “character” from a casebook), participating in a mediation (save the blustery theatrics for the jury, please), or developing a marketing plan for getting and keeping clients who pay the bills (no, your paycheck doesn’t magically appear from thin air each month). And, be prepared for clients who do not appreciate law firms who “train” their new associates on the client’s dime.  As you can imagine, clients are not generally thrilled about paying $250 or more per hour for some green pea lawyer to spend 16.1 hours “shepardizing” cases on an issue of law that should be obvious to a seasoned attorney.

5.  Law School Is Not for Everyone.  We can’t all go to top-tier law schools.  (See Paragraph 2, above.)  Some of us can’t do it for academic reasons, and some of us can’t do it for financial or familial reasons.  Thankfully, you do not need a perfect LSAT score or a 4.0 college g.p.a. to go to law school or to be successful as a lawyer.  Law school admissions rely heavily on LSAT and g.p.a., because they are measurable, objective criteria by which to separate otherwise equally qualified candidates.  But the only thing meaningfully predicted by your LSAT score and your undergraduate grades is the likelihood you’ll make it through the first year of law study.  Even then, your undergraduate grades are valuable only as to certain subjects and your LSAT score has predictive value only on the outliers — if you score in the top 30% or the bottom 30%, you have a better than average or far less than average chance of success, respectively.  Anything else in between is a coin flip.  Plenty of law schools equipped to provide a good, sound legal education realize this and have more flexible or holistic admissions standards.  At the end of the day, the law in the library at Harvard is the same law in the library at any other law school.

But, be realistic.  If you have a 2.5 undergraduate g.p.a. and a LSAT score in the 31st percentile, you are not prepared for law school – period.  Your grades and LSAT score strongly indicate that you lack the reading comprehension and logical reasoning skills critical to success both as a law student and a lawyer.  Yes, there is a law school out there somewhere that will admit you.  That doesn’t mean you should go; it’s an acceptance letter, not a subpoena.  Either academically prepare yourself by improving your core skills or accept the fact that this is not the field in which your talents lie.  Do not let yourself go into debt that is the equivalent of a small mortgage to learn this lesson. (See next paragraph.)

6.  Be a Critical Consumer and Do Not Believe Everything You Hear or Read.  I have seen people spend more time debating the purchase of a $50 pair of shoes than debating to which law school they will give their hard-earned money for the privilege of earning a law degree.  It’s insane.  Even those students who do some investigation ask all the wrong questions.  I’m sure the backlash on this will come fast and furious, but I’m gonna say it anyway:  you should not care what a school’s bar pass rate is unless it’s practically zero.  You are the best predictor of your likelihood for success on the bar, not your classmates past and present, and law school isn’t a three or four-year-long Bar prep course.

What should you care about?  Two things:  (1) how many people flunk out the first year and (2) your job prospects during law school and after.  If the first-year attrition rate is more than 30%, that’s a good indication the school is admitting too many students not well-prepared for the study of law.  These are not folks you want to rely upon as study partners, that will heighten the quality of classroom dialogue, or who will enable the faculty to teach to anything but the lowest common denominator.  Not a recipe for a great law school experience.   Also be wary of overly optimistic employment numbers.  If it seems unreal to you that 98% of graduates are employed, trust your gut.  Ask about opportunities to intern or clerk somewhere; it’s the only hands-on experience you’ll get before the real show.  Do some homework and randomly select graduates to ask about their pre and post-graduation employment experiences to determine your true chances of finding employment you need or desire.  Don’t rely solely on the alumni served up to you at a prospective law school’s open house or recruiting event — these folks were carefully selected, and I’m sure you can imagine the marketing office wasn’t asking any unemployed or underemployed alumni to talk up their experience.

Be especially critical if your law school path takes you down a non-traditional road, such as to a state-accredited law school.  Investigate the consequences of attending such a school (such as where and when you can take the Bar exam in other states) and your employment prospects with an even greater degree of scrutiny.  If you can choose between an ABA school and a state-accredited school, choose carefully.  You need the reasons for attending a state-accredited school to really outweigh those for attending your ABA option, if only because of the serious limitations on your mobility and employment prospects attendant to the state-accredited degree.  (For example, you can never sit for the Bar exam in Arizona if you hold a J.D. from a non-ABA school, no matter how many years you’ve practiced.)  If your options are limited for academic reasons to non-ABA schools, rethink your decision about law school altogether.  You are about to plunk down $20,000 to $30,000 for the first year of study, and you will still owe that money even if you are academically disqualified after the first year.  Non-profit does not mean “no profit;” the law school admissions committees do not have your best interests at heart no matter what that glossy marketing brochure says.

7.  Law Is Not What You See on T.V.  I have been a lawyer for nearly 12 years.  In that time, I have tried one case.  Oh, I’ve prepared plenty of cases for trial, and I see the inside of a courtroom often enough, but the reality of law practice in this country is that only about 4% of cases ever get tried.  Any higher number would grind our already beleaguered judicial system to a halt.  Consequently, I spend the vast amount of my time reading, writing and negotiating.  If you are either not good at these things or do not like them, you are making a career choice that will doom you to a life of misery no matter how much you might like law school.  If the idea of sitting alone in a library for hours to read case law, working furiously through the night to write a brief on a deadline, or pleading with opposing counsel (or your own client) to be reasonable makes you want to poke your eye out with a hot stick, I highly recommend you consider an alternate career path, lest you find yourself blind two weeks into your first job.

8.  You Cannot Be a Law Firm Lawyer and a Parent and Do Both Well.  Because law school is ridiculously expensive, you’re going to need a decent paying job when you graduate.  The vast majority of those are at law firms with high annual billable hour requirements.  Whether your annual requirement is 1,900 hours or 2,300 hours, you are going to find that requirement mostly incompatible with things like parent-teacher conferences, Little League practice, music lessons, field trips and homework help, to say nothing of maternity leave if you are the one birthing the future Little-Leaguer or paternity leave if you are lucky enough to land at a firm that not only has such a policy and doesn’t make you feel like a complete jackass for utilizing it.  In fact, you will find a billable hours requirement quite difficult to balance against being home for dinner, taking a vacation or getting more than 6 hours of sleep per night (sometimes on the floor of your office).  And, I’m just talking about making it through a year meeting the bare minimum of what’s expected of an associate.  If you have aspirations of earning a bonus or making partner at a law firm, you better have a stay-at-home parent or a nanny and a high tolerance for watching your children grow up in pictures, because rest assured your weeks will be 80-100 hours per on a regular basis.  You will have to make difficult choices more often than you’d like:  go to dinner with a client who unexpectedly popped into town or go to Junior’s playoff game?  More often, though, you’ll just have difficult conversations because you don’t get a choice.  Ask my husband how he took the news that I’ll be away for an entire month this year for a trial.  I’m sure you’ll get an earful.  And my husband is a lawyer, too, so the professional part of him at least understands even when the parent/husband part of him is frustrated.

9.  Not Every Lawyer Plays by the Rules.  You would think that lawyers, having gone through all the same hazing rituals, would be kinder to each other.  Sometimes, that’s the case.  I’ve been fortunate over the years to work with (and against) some lawyers I’m quite proud to call colleagues.  But, I’ve encountered more than a fair share of lawyers whose ethics, motives, tactics and gamesmanship are appalling.  You know those stories you’ve heard about students stealing pages out of law library books to prevent the “competition” from completing an assignment?  Well, those jerks end up practicing law, too, and they take those bad habits right along with them, honing them over years of practice.  It’s bad enough when one of them ends up on the other side of one of your cases.  But, it’s far worse when one of them ends up working in your firm on one of your cases.

10. Being Argumentative Does Not Make You a Good Lawyer.  If I had a dollar for every student who said to me, “I like to argue, so I’d be a great lawyer,” I wouldn’t need a day job.  This is, however, probably the second worst reason to go to law school.  (See paragraph 1.)  I’d explain this, but I couldn’t do a better job of it than Mark Herrmann did here.