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A Socratic Method: The ABA’s Next Legal Career Guide

I am excited to welcome LOMAP’s new law practice advisor as a contributor to the Massachusetts Law Practice Advisor blog. Jared Correia, Esq., has practiced with several law firms in Massachusetts and worked as the publications attorney at the Massachusetts Bar Association before joining LOMAP. A profile of Attorney Correia can be found at http://www.masslomap.org/articles.htm. Jared will bring a new, exciting and different voice to the blog. I believe he will contribute greatly to our discussion of law practice management as you will see in this enjoyable book review he has contributed below. Without further ado, here is Jared Correia:

The 2008 Edition (the Fifth) of the ABA’s The Legal Career Guide: From Law Student to Lawyer ostensibly offers advice to the law student becoming lawyer. A cursory view of the Guide’s contents and a look after the official publication date (September 2008–the start of school) seem to combine to indicate that the practiced attorney or recent graduate may have missed out on the offered wisdom by a factor of years. The Legal Career Guide, as read in order, does indeed present a chronology of the authors’ prescribed best way to land the legal job of your dreams. The authors themselves, however, warn against such a reading, indicating, instead, that readers should pick out sections of the book as they need them, such that the text becomes something of a working field guide for the job search. Taken in this context, the Guide’s broader implications become clear. Add to your consideration the outside influences bearing upon a January reading, and the general applications of interest that may be found: a new year, a new school semester, a new fiscal quarter and a boatload of new attorneys, with or without paddles, just sworn in. Turn to Chapter 4: Anyone looking for a new job must identify his skill set and work values, so that he can find companies that require his particular skills and that match his personal values. Flip to Chapter 25: Every practicing attorney should keep his finger to the pulse of changes in the profession, such that he can predict the movements in his specialty and can make adjustments where necessary, to better manage the progress of his career. The Guide certainly does the job promised: It’s an excellent substantive primer for law students seeking their first jobs; but, there is something here for every attorney.

Be warned, however, that this is not your run of the mill Career Guide. It reads like a how-to written by the child of an unholy union of Ludwig Wittgenstein and Bill Belichick. It is a philosophical tome (you remember the Socratic Method, right?) dedicated to the principles of hard work. If there are two generic pieces of advice to be derived from this book, they are as follows:

Know Thyself. And, Introduce Thyself to Others.

There Is No Substitute for Hard Work and Preparation. Measure Nine Times. Cut Once.

There are, however, so many practical tidbits thrown into the Guide that those who believe Plato to be a molding clay will find numerous things upon which to hang their hats, or their shingles. Chapter 11 covers the proper design of a resume, and walks the reader through the process of funneling a large mass of experience into a cogent and appealing advertisement of the self. Chapter 12 underscores the often-overlooked importance of researching employers prior to the application, to make as certain as possible that the fit will be right. The appendices are worth the price of admission. Appendix A represents a fulsome list of career resources, some of which are accessible via the Web. Certain useful Sites include: the under-utilized Craigslist for job searching; the MyShingle Blog for solos, small firms and startups; and, The Common Scold for insight into the law and technology. Appendix D is instructive for its lists of the “real-life” duties involved in specific attorney positions, so that you may find out what your employer may not tell you: exactly what you are getting into.

The Legal Career Guide is no perfunctory handbook, but represents a thoughtful and reasoned approach for finding a legal job you want. This is especially valuable in these difficult economic times.

The Legal Career Guide: From Law Student to Lawyer is available through the LOMAP Lending Library.