Yesterday I received an e-mail from LPM Publications, which is the Law Practice Management Section of the American Bar Association. It was an advertisement for a new book Introduction to Law Firm Practice, which covers topics such as what on earth non-equity partners and of counsel are, law firm profit structures, and how to not just bring in new clients, but actually handle engagement letters, conflicts, and the like.
Sounds like something that would actually be useful for young attorneys so they can understand the business that they’re getting in to. Even though they won’t be meeting with their big corporate clients any time soon, it is good to have a better understanding of the relationship between the client and the firm so that you can avoid making some dumb rookie mistakes.
And, unless you leave legal practice, this is something every lawyer will eventually need to know, unlike civil procedure, which only litigators will need, or the RAP and fee tail, which it turns out no one will ever need to know.
Now, remember that this is published by the same organization that sets law school accreditation standards, including what classes law schools must offer. Repeat after me:
Conflict of interests.
Could the conflict here be any more clear? This is information virtually every graduate will need, but very few law schools offer classes on law firm management. It seems like precisely the type of thing law schools should then be required to teach. But, why require schools to give basic information to students when you can give it to them for $79.95 a pop?
Just in case you think there’s a doubt as to whether a conflict really exists, here’s the title of the e-mail I got:
What They Don’t Teach You in Law School
You choose what they teach us in law school! You choose what they teach us in law school! You choose what they fucking teach us in fucking law fucking school!!!
Surely someone over there at the ABA has taken a class on professional responsibility and ethics, right? I mean, that is a required class (as it should be), and I’m pretty sure the people running the ABA have been to law school, so they must have learned about conflicts of interests and seen this one a mile away.
But wait. While the ABA requires law schools to not only offer professional responsibility, but to make it a required class, they don’t actually regulate the content of these classes. The ABA merely requires that you have a class with the right words in the name, and which causes the registrar to check a certain box in your file. Actually teaching professional responsibility and ethics is not required, as there is no monitoring or enforcement.
That’s okay though, the ABA publishes seven books on ethics and professional responsibility.