I just finished speaking with a class at the University of Washington Law School.
It was class for mostly 3L’s entitled ‘Practical And Professional Responsibility Issues in the Small or Solo Law Practice.’
The course description in the catalogue:
This course examines the practical, ethical and personal issues which are unique to small firm and solo law practice. Issues to be explored include capitalization and financing of the small/solo practice; selection of practice focus; marketing; client relations; trust account management; advertising; limitations on multi-disciplinary practice; and the recognition and amelioration of common personal issues such as professional isolation, stress management and integration of one’s personal and professional life. Classes will be presented by lecturers, guest lecturers, and panels of practitioners, with small group participation/interaction.
As I have been for the last three years, I was invited to come in and speak on how lawyers can use the Internet for professional development (getting to be a better lawyer) and business development (getting a job or getting clients in an area you want to work in – area of practice or location).
Rather than being ahead of the curve in their use of the Internet, most of the students were behind practicing lawyers in how to use the Internet to accelerate relationships and word of mouth referrals. Ironically, all of them agreed it was referrals and a strong word of mouth reputation that drove a good lawyer’s practice
Afterwards out in the hallway (where you get to know students and their struggles), students came up to me and asked why doesn’t someone like me teach a semester long class or do a semester or year long clinic on how to use the Internet in the ways I was trying to cover in 2 hours. Students told me that no one had told them how to use the net this way. One student told me he felt so far behind the times.
I explained it’s tough for someone like me to dedicate the time. I also explained when I have offered similar things to law schools I met a wall of bureaucracy and skepticism. “We have some courses on stuff like that. Our placement office uses the latest technology. Our students do not get jobs and grow as lawyers through the Internet.”
I wonder if what I am really getting is ignorance. Do law school leaders, deans, professors, and especially, placement officers, know how to network through the Internet to grow professionally, to build relationships, and to build a stronger reputation? Have any of these folks been out using the Internet like this of late? Do they have a reason to do so personally?
If these folks did know how to network through the Internet to accelerate relationships and a reputation, wouldn’t they be neglect if they didn’t share this knowledge with law students?
After all, I was told an out of state law student at UW pays $35,000 per year. And I’m told that this is one of the less expensive public law schools for out of state students. A student from Washington chimed in that in-state tuition was not far behind.
If law school placement offices don’t know how to use the Internet for networking, don’t they have an obligation to either find out how – NOW – or get people in to help them, and in turn their students?
We’re talking about using an RSS reader, LinkedIn as a network, blogging, Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms on the net to grow as a lawyer, to get the job you want, to do the work you want, and to serve people.
If we’re training lawyers to help people by doing good legal work, we sure as heck should empower lawyers to connect with people so they can serve the public we are dedicated to serving as a profession.
I’ll bet I can visit any law school website and it’ll have language about training students to make a difference, to serve people, and to make the world a better place. But is the school really delivering?
The economy is not great. The law school here has told students the economy is the worse since the early ’80′s. Okay. That’s reality. Deal with it.
As a law school placement office or law school dean, start exposing students to things that will help them – and the public.
The Internet, used effectively (not websites, which most all the students this AM thought was the most important tool to connect with the public), is one powerful thing. It’s being used by everyone to get more done in less time. Why not law students and recent law grads?
At some point potential students will realize that they can’t flip their student loans for a job in 4 years. In fact they will realize that college may be the option for fun and entertainment, but not for education. Prices for traditional higher education will skyrocket so high over the next several years that potential students will start to make their way to non accredited institutions.
While colleges and universities are building new buildings for the english , social sciences and business schools, new high end, un-accredited , BRANDED schools are popping up that will offer better educations for far, far less and create better job opportunities.
As an employer I want the best prepared and qualified employees. I could care less if the source of their education was accredited by a bunch of old men and women who think they know what is best for the world. I want people who can do the job. I want the best and brightest. Not a piece of paper.
If you as a law school dean or placment officer won’t act for the law students, do it to save yourself and your law school.
Make your law school and your school’s degree relevant and valuable for law students and grads.
Sure, get them a degree, teach them the law, help them understand how to think like a lawyer. But really become relevant and valuable by helping your grads serve people, to become even better lawyers, and to earn a living doing what your grads want to do. As with everything today, it’s going to take using the Internet.
It is possible. What are you waiting for? If you don’t act now, aren’t you being neglect in your duty to your law students, the state (if state funded or owned), your board of trustees, your alumni, and the public?