What if you really could learn how to practice law in law school?


Two law professors have come up with an admittedly radical proposal, designed to help law students learn real world lawyering skills before they graduate: law schools that operate their own law firm.

The idea is akin to what doctors do by working in teaching hospitals. You get hands-on experience working on real cases for real clients, under the supervision of real attorneys. What’s radical about that?

Clearly, law students need the experience of working with real clients, and maybe I’m missing something, but how is this idea better than working as a law clerk while you’re in school? Instead, why not simply mandate so many hours of clerking experience during law school, and possibly after, as a condition precedent to issuing a license?

Everyone knows that law schools do a poor job of preparing graduates for the actual practice of law. I’m willing to hear more about the law school firm idea but right now, I say let law schools teach theory and law firms teach practice.

A comment to the ABA Journal’s post about this story sums it up best: “For 70 years, law schools have “trained” lawyers how to be not ready-for-prime-time. What makes you think THEY know how to practice law. More ivory tower fantasy.”

What do you think? Is this a good idea?


Lawyer marketing 101: the basics of getting articles published


Getting exposure via published articles has long been a marketing mainstay for lawyers. In the age of the Internet, there are even more opportunities than ever as the need for quality content has multiplied.

Many books have been written on writing and publishing articles. If you are serious about promoting your practice this way, I recommend reading a few books and learning to do it right.

The basics of getting published never change. The first step is to identify those publications that are a suitable outlet for your articles. Offline, the venerable “Writers Market” (from Writer’s Digest) lists thousands of magazines and newspapers that accept outside submissions.

Online, numerous directories list electronic newsletters and web sites that accept articles. Go to any search engine and type in and you’ll find thousands of ezines and the directories that list them.

Once you have determined which publications you are interested in, the next step is to obtain their “writers’ guidelines”. This is a description of the kinds of articles they want, how many words, the rights they purchase (i.e., “first publication”), and the procedure for submitting the article for consideration.

You’ll probably find writers’ guidelines on the publication’s web site. If not, contact the editor and ask if they accept articles and if so, what they are looking for.

Once you know the guidelines, the next step is the “query”. Some publications want you to submit your article idea in outline form, along with a sample of your other writing, some publications want to see the whole article first. Whatever the guidelines, your query needs to sell the editor on three things:

  1. Why their readers would want to read your article
  2. Your credentials for writing it
  3. Your ability to write it

Your query letter should be well written and to the point. It should demonstrate that the article you propose will be relevant to their readership and interesting to read. Editors read hundreds of queries and sort through them quickly; if you want to be considered, you need to get their attention and immediately make them see the value in your article.

Getting the first article accepted is the hardest. Once you have built up a list of publications that have accepted your work, you should find yourself getting published more frequently. Until then, don’t assume that being a lawyer is enough of a pedigree to be accepted for publication. Actually, being a lawyer could work against you. If an editor assumes you “write like a lawyer,” you’ll have to work harder to show them that you can write something real people would want to read.

Don’t hesitate to start with small publications. It will give you experience in writing and submitting articles. You’ll also get a list of publishing credits and that will make it easier to get other editors to give you the go ahead.

Don’t be concerned about payment for your articles; most publications pay little or nothing anyway. But do negotiate a listing of your web site or other contact information at the end of the article. You want readers to be able to reach you.

Be patient; it will be worth the effort. Even if they don’t allow you to list your contact information in the article, just being able to say you have been published carries weight. Reprints of your articles make excellent marketing hand outs that can be used for years. And you can re-cycle your material (make sure you retained the right to do so) in other articles, speaking engagements, web/ezine articles, blog posts, reports, and so forth. Also, having been published can lead to interviews and speaking engagements and could also provide material for press releases. For example, your published article might be referenced in a press release where you offer a free report that amplifies the subject matter of the article.

Writing for publication will give you exposure and credibility as an expert in your field. It can also lead to even more exposure in the form of inquiries from other publications, joint venture partners, meeting holders, teleseminar promoters, and the like. Getting published will help you grow your mailing list, develop new referral sources, and create more clients.  It will also make your mother proud.