Pre law education does not directly teach law students how to act like a lawyer. Lawyer training/law school does offer certain classes which provide law students with direction on how to act like a lawyer through general “how to practice” classes, professional responsibility classes, or clinics. However, there certain lessons that you never fully understand until you actually become a lawyer. Experience is the primary teacher of molding how lawyers act.
Whatever career with a law degree that you choose, it is beneficial for you to understand now as a pre law candidate preparing for law school why many lawyers act the way they do.
Obviously, I am unaware of your personal experiences with lawyers (or even if you have had any interactions with lawyers), but most people that have interacted with lawyers in the past observe that lawyers think and ACT differently.
A non-lawyer may notice that lawyers act 1) overly confident (perhaps bordering on being a “know it all”); 2) often say no; 3) generalize answers; 4) detach themselves emotionally. Remember that when you speak with a lawyer regarding representing you, the legal matter at hand is personal to you, but not personal to the lawyer. This is not to say that a lawyer does not care about you or your legal problem, however the lawyer is in the business of taking care of problems. That lawyer’s success in his business is measured by providing answers to the client for proactive steps, minimizing risk, and solving legal problems. The respective client will judge the lawyer based on the services and accuracy of information provided
A lawyer always must keep in mind that he/she cannot do anything that will frustrate the ability to remain in business and practice law in good standing. The result of this business model in this form of professional service is that a lawyer’s actions often are characterized by the below:
A) Lawyers often say “No”. If a lawyer informs the client that a proposed course of action is appropriate/advisable, and the results of that course of action harm the client or are completely incorrect, then the lawyer will be held accountable. Therefore, in a lawyer’s mind when the best course of action is not clear, it is always safer for a lawyer to advise that a proposed course of action cannot (or should not be followed). For the lawyer it is a win-win situation in terms of protecting himself. If the client goes against the lawyer’s advice and the results are disfavorable the lawyer can say “I told you”. If the proposed course of action is successful and beneficial, the lawyer can say “you got lucky”, and if the client does not take that course of action then the lawyer is still safe. Therefore, when you become a lawyer advise your clients about what the worst case scenario is in any given situation and arm the client with enough accurate information so that the client can make THEIR OWN EDUCATED DECISION.
B) Speaking in Generalities. Similar to lawyers saying “no”, lawyers also often speak in generalities. When answering a legal question a lawyer may start out with “IT DEPENDS… GENERALLY speaking the law states that ____, but judges are people and it isn’t really clear how a judge may rule on this… Let me do some research and get back to you.” (Later.) “The results of my research TEND to indicate that ____.”
Predicting how a Judge may rule is an art, not a science and therefore a lawyer cannot make (or should not) make guarantees about outcomes. This is something that should be made clear to the client, and is something that you should discuss with clients when you become a lawyer and enter the practice of law.
C) Emotionally Detached. Realize that because clients are personally involved in a matter they often have emotional baggage that will be attached to situation. This emotional baggage clouds the client’s mind and will frustrate the client’s ability to think clearly. Lawyers are paid for wise advice and guidance, and to provide same the lawyer must not let emotions factor into a legal course of action. A calm mind is a quick mind. Understanding this concept will be beneficial to you in your pre law studies, law school, and beyond.
D) Overly Confident. Lawyers often appear to be overly confident and have an answer for everything. Part of a lawyer’s job is to be persuasive and an audience is never persuaded by a speaker who is meek, subdued, and unsure of themselves. Persuasive rhetoric has significant ties to the ability to confidently state a position; 1) verbally with proper tone, pacing and verbiage, and 2) physically with proper confident body language. As a pre law student start practicing this now.
Remember that there is a reason for everything that you will come across in law school, your lawyer education or in the practice of law… nothing just happens. Consider the background and reasoning for everything in your current “pre law” stage and you are well on your way to becoming a competent lawyer.
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