Advice to a Young Lawyer
I had the privilege of addressing a group of about 50 law school graduates last week as part of the New York State Bar Association's semiannual Bridging the Gap program -- a two-day orientation course for newly minted lawyers on the "real-world" life and practice of law.
Here is an abridged version of my remarks:
There is an ancient Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times."
And indeed, this is a very interesting time to become a lawyer, what with political and economic upheaval not only in the United States but around the world, transformational advances in science and technology and dramatic social changes in the ways we interact with each other as human beings. How can we poor lawyers -- "highly paid janitors in the basement of society," in the words of a former Harvard Law School dean -- expect to keep up when the landscape around us in changing literally every day?
Almost exactly 40 years ago, before most of you were born, I graduated from law school and attended an orientation program very much like this one, with classes on specific legal skills such as drafting wills, handling personal injury cases and presiding over real estate closings. Because that's what lawyers did back then.
Well, a lot has changed in the last 40 years, and today, I am doing virtually none of the legal work that I was taught to do back then. Here are some of the services I perform for my clients that didn't even exist in 1980:
-- Forming limited liability companies, which weren't invented until 1988;
-- Drafting information technology agreements (the personal computer revolution didn't happen until about 1984);
-- Advising clients on their website and social media marketing activities (the internet came into our lives in the early 1990s, social media shortly after the new millennium);
-- E-commerce transactions (eBay and Amazon weren't even incorporated until the early 1990s).