Thoughts on an Impending Graduation
Three years of law school, finally over. My 85 or so credits gave new meaning to that overused phrase about days being long and years being short. Now, all that stands between me and my juris doctor is seven more of those long days. Graduating has definitely gotten me thinking about the future, and so while I am in this rare enough moment of reflection, I am going to memorialize some of the things I want to keep in mind moving forward.
I made it. And not even barely; I am happy with my performance. I’ve got a whole summer to study for the bar exam, and since I’m using Themis as my bar review course, I can study at my convenience. I was able to use some of my loans to buy a car (of which I will probably be posting pictures, at some point) and a nice bass guitar and speaker cabinet (which I will definitely be posting pictures of). Many of my friends are buying houses and recording music. Most of the people I know are working and making money. I’m even somewhat employable I think, despite what the news has been saying over my law school tenure. Life is good, and it’s always time to celebrate the good things.
While it is an accomplishment to be proud of, I (and all of us new graduates) need to keep in mind that we are the bottom of the barrel right now. We are mostly useless to anyone who needs us to practice law at this point (although Drexel and its focus on co-ops and clinics make this slightly less true) and we would be pretty lucky if someone would pay us. It’s time to be humble, swallow our pride and dive into our respective job hunts with an open mind and an eagerness to make ourselves useful to an employer. And now, a case study of what not to do:
This young, generically-dressed-and-poorly-groomed gentleman is Joseph Rakofsky, Esq. The Philly Law Blog has a really thorough and engaging write-up about his case HERE, but the gist is this: Joe Rakofsky graduated from law school in 2009, passed the bar, and very quickly got hired to handle a murder case in Washington D.C. He flubbed it, was given the opportunity to withdraw as counsel (with only a few comments by the judge about his inexperience), and suffered the ire of the internet for some of the mistakes he made. He got mad at people talking about him on the internet, and sued something like 74 people and entities at last count (including the Washington Post, Thomson Reuters, the American Bar Association, at least one law school and a number of attorney bloggers) for defamation. And today, finally, his case is over for all intents and purposes. The Order from the Judge is up, and all of Rakofsky’s claims have been dismissed. Unless he appeals, which strikes me as stupid and pointless given the clarity of the Order, he has reached the end.
I see a few things that can be taken from this. First, knowing my limitations is crucial. I am not an experienced litigator. I am not qualified to answer the vast majority of legal questions that friends, family and acquaintances may have of me. Until I pass the bar, I’m not even qualified to give legal advice about things that I do know about. Rakofsky made a crucial error that was pointed out ceaselessly. He advertised himself as an experienced attorney who could handle complicated matters. He represented himself as a seasoned litigator who could represent his clients with all of the tenacity and knowledge that come from years of experience, when really he had none. It is an understandable road to go down on some level. Everyone wants to be the expert and give advice, and attorneys are a narcissistic lot to begin with, but that is no excuse for holding yourself out as someone you’re not.
Along with that, we must remember to have patience. We have a long way to go to get to expert status. The blog I pointed to earlier, the Philly Law Blog, is populated by two young Philadelphia attorneys trying earnestly and honestly to make their way in a solo practice. They really lay out how difficult and rewarding it is to start out, and it has been encouraging to see the kind of support that is out there for new attorneys, solo or not. I’m looking forward to carving out my own place as a Philadelphia attorney. But it never happens overnight.
Thanks for reading.