Law in Contemporary Society
I was intimidated by the percentage of laid-off CLS biglaw lawyers Eben wrote on the board today. Still, just because a person loses her job doesn’t necessarily mean she made a wrong choice. Within the current economy, even public interest organizations have laid off lawyers. So, what should we do?

Eben’s In-Class Answer:

1. Use your 2L and 3L years to become an expert in something – figure out exactly what change you want to effect and exactly how you are going to realize it

2. Force CLS to respond to your individual needs – aggressively seek mentoring relationships

3. Establish your own organization and find funding sources willing to invest in your cause


Even if we can find mentors at CLS, training at school may be insufficient to form a sustainable business immediately after graduation. People may be unwilling to fund inexperienced graduates, no matter how worthy the cause.

Are we all supposed to turn ourselves into entrepreneurs and sell our ideas? Is it possible to do so immediately without Eben’s pedigree (Yale law, SCOTUS clerk, Cravath, CLS professor, unique technical background)?

-- SoeJungKim - 01 Apr 2009

To be fair, Eben did not say that establishing our own organization is the only desirable path. Spending time developing an individualized area of expertise – during the school year and summers – is a good start.

Hanging a shingle might be an option post graduation, but we’ll also be in demand with established organizations whose missions we can assist and who can provide us with the additional training required for solo practice and other opportunities.

-- MichaelHolloway - 01 Apr 2009

What makes you think you don't have the skills right now? Or that you won't have them by 3L year with clinics and externships under your belt?

One thing that scares me most about the prospect of starting-out litigating at a firm, as opposed to public defense or DA work, is that the hierarchical structure at a firm will condition me to believe that I won’t be qualified to do anything useful until I’m five years into practice. In order for me to peacefully do my doc review, they would sort of have to drill that idea into my head and use the prospect of more substantive work as a motivator.

The types of people who are telling me I’m not ready to do these things all seem to have a financial interest in keeping me subordinated until I fill their cup with enough of my blood. I wonder if it’s the same for you, too.

-- MolissaFarber - 01 Apr 2009

I think this discussion is missing the point. Eben delineated his firm’s business plan in the midst of a discussion on how we, as consumers of a pricey legal education, need to change how and what we are being taught.

The problem is that we don’t know what we want changed. There are two fundamental questions that we have to address:

1. What do we want to do?

2. What do we need to know to be able to do it?

Question 1 can be answered relatively early in our law school careers. Some come to CLS with a plan but are derailed by the “cannery” system that is in place. Others enter without a clear objective and end up similarly molded.

Eben’s point was that if we desire to break the mold, we need to pressure the administration (e.g. line the corridors during semesterly faculty meetings). In order to enjoy a law-school environment that does not inherently create a biased view of the profession, we must first demand it.

The fundamental issue is that we aren’t exposed to opportunities in an effective way. Instead we are oppressed under atomizing classes, a flawed grading system, and a flawed curriculum.

Question 2 follows similarly, but I imagine the answer will unravel as we begin to explore opportunities under the guidance of profs. who believe it valuable to nurture an entrepreneurial spirit.

Difficulties: This is a novel plan, but I’m afraid of taking the next step. Maybe I’ve failed to live up to Eben’s expectation or maybe I’m afraid b/c I’m too risk averse. For law school to shift its paradigm seems counterintuitive b/c it suggests that the institution for learning about the very foundation of society is fluid and that the law is not the firm grounding that greater society embraces but something very dynamic.

Here’s the kicker: A united student body is required for law school to reinvent itself. The school that did change would be derided by those schools that remained static and other members of the old guard. Ultimately, if students, professors, and donors persist in their solidarity and pursue a course which embraced human values, they will succeed in producing lawyers who effect change with their words and not simply create canned meat.

-- JonathanFriedman - 01 Apr 2009

Jonathan: Your idea of internally initiating change within a law school while bold is hard for me to conceptualize in a concrete way. How should our curriculum and grading system be changed to stop producing canned meat? Is it possible to do so without also changing the practices of the market?

Molissa: I think lawyering takes significant responsibility because it can directly affect our client's lives. Even though I strongly believe that I would learn a lot from classes, clinics, summer internships and externships throughout the school years, I still want to have some guidance from people who have more experience in the field because I don’t want to make any mistake. Maybe I should have said "me" instead of "us" because I spoke for myself.

-- SoeJungKim -

For law school to shift its paradigm seems counterintuitive b/c it suggests that the institution for learning about the very foundation of society is fluid and that the law is not the firm grounding that greater society embraces but something very dynamic.

To Jonathan: Your post suggests that because the delivery of legal services and education of lawyers is dynamic, the foundations of law must be dynamic: a proposition that need not be true.

Reflecting on our semester, it seems our collective goal, from the study of realism/formalism and then of firm paradigms, is to make the institutions of lawyering (from education to the actual delivery of services) more responsive to ideals that haven’t changed: procedural due process for all citizens and the achievement of just results.

Secondly, it is possible that the law is the firm grounding that greater society embraces, in part, because it is at times dynamic. Citizens put their faith in the machinery of our justice system in the hope that it will furnish fairness. The recognition of human rights, shift to notice pleading, and emergence of class-actions for mass-torts all reflect dynamic shifts in the law which stand as efforts to realize the principles our legal system is grounded in. These shifts are consistent with liberal-progressive belief that human nature can be improved through advances in the law.

Is it possible to do so without also changing the practices of the market?

To Soe Jung: A theme running throughout Molissa, Jonathan, and Eben’s commentaries is that as students we have bargaining-power that can be maximized through collective action. As law students, we are consumers of our education. As young lawyers we are indispensable components of the biglaw firm. As elite law students we are a limited resource. Together we have power to refuse to be commoditized and to reshape markets.



During the semester a number of us, myself included, seemed to believe the costs of running a solo practice would be prohibitive.

I know Eben emphasizes focusing initially on “strategic” concerns (e.g. finding an area of expertise and type of service to deliver) rather than on “tactical” concerns (e.g. the nuts and bolts of running a law office), but AboveTheLaw? recently ran some pieces detailing economical options for those considering eventually opening up a solo practice.

Here are some of the most interesting ideas:

1. A Virtual Office: for $100-300/month you can obtain a Manhattan mailing address, receptionist, voicemail service, and conference room time depending on the package.

2. Perks of Bar Association Membership: membership, at least in NYC, apparently provides free, book-able conference rooms and basic legal research services.

3. Ideas for Generating Business

Web-Presence: Craigslist, LinkedIn? , Facebook, Blogging

Aiding the Media: may generate media appearances or quotations in local papers

CardScan Software: allows you to scan business cards into digital format.


Webs Webs

r10 - 07 Jan 2010 - 23:00:34 - IanSullivan
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