Lawyer Education to Benefit Clients

In many states, the practical skills concerning “The Business of Law”® that lawyers most need to keep their practices profitable and problem free – training in effective client service and law practice management techniques – either are not covered or actively eliminated as legitimate MCLE credits.  They also happen to be skills that no law school faculty offers either.  In fact, in conversations I’ve had with educators, their view of law as a profession means that any such programs about effective client communication are trade-oriented and therefore inappropriate for law schools.  The result was described several years ago in The Wall Street Journal by the publisher of the New York Law School Law Review, who observed that law school students are “reading about the law rather than engaging in it,” with the result that “when they graduate, young lawyers rarely know how to interview clients, advocate for their positions, negotiate a settlement or perform any number of other tasks that lawyers do every day.”

This attitude at the very start of training is too often perpetuated throughout a lawyer’s lifetime by the dearth of CLE courses in management and client service issues.  Yet running a law firm in a businesslike way improves the professionalism of the practice of law.  The purpose is not simply to get more money for the lawyer; it also benefits the client.  A profitable law practice is much more likely to avoid such ethical problems as dipping into client trust accounts, either as direct fraud or as a stopgap “loan.”  Moreover, a law firm run as a business will also approach client service more efficiently – returning phone calls promptly, creating and adhering to budgets, providing sufficient details on invoices, and so on.

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