Tag: law school

Is it a good idea to major in sociology, social work, community, and health? I want to become a family lawyer.

Family law is, for most lawyers, a miserable practice area. You have to have the right personality and constitution for it. If you want to be a family lawyer to “help families,” be prepared for a mostly frustrating (highly frustrating) career. If you want to be a family lawyer to help protect people from the family court system, you will also experience a mostly frustrating career, but not as much as for those who go into family law with the intention of “helping families”—family law is not the best place to expend one’s time, effort, and care, if helping families is your goal. Better to be an excellent pastor, teacher, coach, therapist, social worker (good luck being an excellent social worker if you’re employed by the government—you’ll need it), or something like that. Don’t get me wrong; the world needs good family lawyers, but family lawyers do little to preserve and protect families (and those who try rarely succeed). Family lawyers are there either to victimize through the legal system or to protect people from being victimized by or in the system.

OK, now on to your question. This just my opinion, but I submit it is an educated one:

Law school is intellectually demanding in terms of difficulty, intensity, and volume. Sociology, social work, other areas of study like them are generally and comparatively intellectually lightweight (notice I stated “generally”; there are surely some exceptions, I concede). While it is not impossible for a sociology or social work majors to succeed in law school, I would suggest you major in something that will better equip you for the rigors of law school. English, Philosophy (both the fun and the hard stuff), or hard sciences—disciplines that develop your ability to think, to analyze, and to synthesize. And take classes that teach you to research and write well.

Sociology, social work, and public health treat some of the subjects that family law treats, but not as much as you might believe. In my personal opinion, the sociological, social work, and public health evidence that the courts consider isn’t very reliable or consistent or even all that accurate. You can find a “study” to support any position. Which is a shame because it tars the truly scientific and accurate studies with the broad brush of hackery characteristic of so much of the rubbish.

One thing that might be of extreme value, however, would be to major in sociology or social work in the most intellectually and scientifically rigorous program you can get into, get a master’s degree in it, then go to law school, and then become a family lawyer who stays apprised of and specializes as an expert in the science that is relevant to family law issues. That would be a hard, expensive, time-consuming pathway to becoming a family lawyer, but you’d be one of the best as a result.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Why would anyone choose to become a divorce lawyer?

That is a great question.

Most lawyers who have tried being divorce and family lawyers hate it and abandon it for other practice areas.

I can tell you why I chose to be a divorce and family lawyer:

  1. it’s one of the few practice areas where I can provide value for the fees I charge for the work I do. Not every divorce attorney provides value for the money (Lord knows), but for attorneys who are honest, decent people, it’s easier to provide a good value as a divorce attorney than it is in any other practice area I’ve tried. Fighting for your kids is worth it! Divorce and family law practice is very hard work (there are much easier ways to make good money as a lawyer), but I don’t feel like a thief doing the work. If there’s a better way to provide value for the money than as a decent, honest divorce attorney, I’d love to know (I really would) what it is.
  2. I have a talent for divorce and family law practice, and I am wired to handle what drives other attorney’s mad about divorce and family law practice.

Why I don’t like general civil litigation: When people ask me why I chose to be a divorce attorney I tell them the story of how people would come to me with problems like this: “X charged me $20,000 for _________, but _________ is defective, so how much would it cost me to sue X for this?” And I would tell them, “It’ll cost you about $20,000 to sue X, and even if you win AND collect the judgment (which is hardly guaranteed), then all you would do is break even. And collecting the judgment will usually cost you several thousand dollars more in attorney’s fees to find and obtain the money.”

Why I don’t like criminal defense: I found criminal defense work to be too discouraging because A) I don’t like defending guilty people; and B) I don’t like seeing innocent people get railroaded by the system (it happens more than I’d believed possible).

Why I don’t like criminal prosecution: Far, far too often it’s about getting a conviction, not getting to the truth.

Why I don’t like bankruptcy law: See why I don’t like criminal defense work.

Why I don’t like personal injury plaintiff’s work: Personal injury practice is cynically opportunistic and, in my opinion, is largely wealth confiscation masquerading as legal activity. Why I don’t like personal injury defense: It is, in my opinion, too often a game of trying to ensure that deserving people get little to nothing.

Why I don’t like collection work: See why I don’t like personal injury work.

Why I don’t like transactional legal work (things like writing contracts and estate planning documents): I thought that’s what I’d end up doing as a lawyer when I started law school, but when I participated in mock trials (which I did just to see what it was like), I found to my surprise that I liked it, and liked it a lot more than transactional legal work. I find the transactional work too boring to keep me engaged personally. We need good transactional lawyers, but it’s not work I’m best suited for myself.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 48

Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 48: Personal Statement for Law School 

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant  

My time as a legal assistant to attorney Eric Johnson has served the exact purpose I was hoping it would. I wanted to gain experience in the legal field before starting law school. I have now been accepted to Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and will be attending starting this fall. In honor of that, my blog post this week will be my personal statement I used for my law school applications: 

The serenity prayer, attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, says, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” I have needed each part of this prayer at different times in my life. As I have applied the three elements of this prayer, I have found healing for myself, and I know that other people deserve to experience the same. I can help bring this healing to others by practicing law. 

First, “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” This was difficult for me to accept because I did not like to think I could not change certain things. I am an American, and I have been taught from my youth that my choice is paramount in everything I do. And I believe that I have the power to make whatever choice I want. However, I have had to learn that even though I always have my choice, I cannot eliminate the consequences of my choices. For instance, I regret not playing hockey when I was younger. I love hockey, and I am one of the few American boys born in the 90s whose favorite athlete was Joe Sakic and not Michael Jordan. I cannot go back and choose to play hockey now and accepting that helps me change my mindset. Instead of dwelling on what could have been, I can now focus on enjoying things like acting, singing, and dancing. Things I did as a youth, and that enhance my life now. That acceptance brings healing, and I think that by helping people see they cannot always change the consequences of the law, I can bring this essential healing as a lawyer. 

Second, “courage to change the things I can.” To me, this means I have responsibility when I want to see a change in my life. For instance, when I served a two-year mission for my church in Hungary, I did not speak Hungarian well at first. I would say that I was like a child, but even Hungarian children can communicate with words instead of pointing and acting out what they mean to say. Despite the struggle, and because of my love for my faith and the people of Hungary, I did everything it took to improve my language skills throughout my mission. I worked at it every day and persevered until I could confidently hold a real conversation with any Hungarian I met (even the children). The work I put in to get better at the Hungarian language helped create closer relationships with others and built my confidence. These things are examples to me of the healing that comes when I accept responsibility for what I can do for myself. People need good lawyers to help them do what they can for themselves in a lawsuit, and I can offer people this necessary healing through practicing law. 

The final principle of the serenity prayer, “and wisdom to know the difference”, has been crucial to me in my relationships with others. I have learned that I cannot control how other people react to me or what they think about me, but sometimes I forget that I cannot control these things and I need wisdom to keep myself from trying to manipulate other’s reactions and emotions. For instance, I used to work with my brother at a company he started in college. We did not have the healthiest dynamic as kids and I could tell this was playing out in our professional lives together. I had to quit, but I was scared to tell him because I thought he would “freak out.” I needed wisdom to tell him I was quitting while allowing him to have whatever reaction he wanted. It turned out, he felt the same way I did, and it helped bring healing to our relationship. A good lawyer helps their client find the same healing by helping them exercise wisdom to know how they should or should not act, and that’s why I want to pursue the law as a career since I know other people would benefit from that. 

The serenity prayer has been a guiding influence in everything I do, and I have been blessed with healing by choosing to follow these principles in my life. I am immeasurably grateful for this healing, and I want to share this with others because it will help them. I know these principles paired with law degree can help me be a “healer” for other people in my own way. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277 

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Would you want to groom your children to become lawyers?

Would you enlist your children into a pre-law school program which grooms them to become top notch lawyers? 

No. I have gone in the opposite direction. I have told my children (who love dogs and want dogs because their mother and I do not want a dog and have never had a dog) that I will buy each of them a dog, if they promise not to go to law school and become lawyers. The “legal biz” can, and often does, ruin good people who become lawyers. I don’t want to risk my children being ruined by the legal profession. There are some good people in the legal profession, but there aren’t enough good people in it to redeem it, in my opinion. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Are older lawyers better?

Are older lawyers better?

If by “older” you mean lawyers who are not fresh out of law school, the answer is: almost always yes.

They don’t teach you how to practice law in law school, they teach you how to read, research, understand, and interpret the law in law school. Law schools are getting better at providing more “clinical” experiences to law students, but law students fresh out of law school typically don’t know how to draft pleadings, prepare a case, negotiate a good settlement, and argue a case in court. I didn’t when I passed the bar. I had to learn all that through “on the job training”.

Some law students get clerkships or internships during law school that do a superb job of showing these student the ropes, so that by the time they pass the bar they have one or two years’ real-world experience in the practice of law. And some other law students are just so naturally talented and driven and autodidactic that they take to learning the practice of law like a duck takes to water.

Some say that attorneys need about 5-7 years in full-time practice before they really know what they are doing. I think that’s a good rule of thumb. Don’t pass over the less experienced prodigies if you can find them, however (and finding them will take some effort on your part). Exceptional newbies are the best value because they’re skilled yet priced lower than attorneys who have been in practice longer (notice my choice of words here: “been in practice longer” is not synonymous with “more experienced”; simply having a law license year over year doesn’t make you a skilled lawyer, so find out how active an attorney is before choosing on the basis of how long he/she got his/her law license. An attorney who has been licensed for 15 years and has no clients isn’t likely a good choice).

If by “older” you mean lawyers who are a few years short of retirement or death, then the answer is: almost always no. As with many activities, the effective practice of law is not for the old and infirm. If you don’t have the stamina to do the reading and writing and court appearances, you’re almost surely going to lose the case. Attorneys who are so old they’re forgetting details are not going to do your case any favors. Moreover, a lot of very old attorneys get jaded or complacent, lacking that fire in the belly that they need to have to motivate them to do their best work. They start coasting on their “experience,” letting their paralegal and office staff handle more and more of a case, rather than putting in the work your case needs to succeed.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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