Thursday, April 29, 2010

How can you both know less than you think you know and know more than you think you know?

Dan Hull and I seem to share a lot in our views of legal practice. Today he writes:
Legal reasoning. Lots of people finally acquire it. Some are famously better and faster at it than others. . . .
But can you think on your own? Can you work? Legal reasoning is critical--but it's never enough by itself to become an outstanding lawyer. The rest is frame of mind: energy, ambition, organization, logistics-sense, re-thinking everything all the time, a take-charge orientation, genuine people skills, and an urgent passion to solve tough problems.
But you say you need a "form"? You say do well in "cookie cutter" workplaces after you get the hang of things? Consider selling women's shoes. The DMV. Or perhaps insurance defense work. . . . 
If you are new, "steal our clients", please. Be that good. That will take a while. While you are learning, please understand that you are getting more than you are giving. You don't know much. (Not PC but true--get used to it.) So it's not unreasonable for us to ask you to try to do perfect research, editing and proofreading.
But we love your ideas, your first impressions, and the trick is to be confident enough to ask dumb questions and make comments. Often, your first impressions or "reactions" to a problem or project are very good--but we don't always hear them right away.
You may not know at first very much law, or how to apply it to facts for a fee, and then give the "right advice". But you have instincts evolving all the time--they have little to do with law school--that may surprise you. You had them all along.

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