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The Differences Between Law School and Legal Practice

As a licensed lawyer with years of experience, Alex Petraglia has a deep understanding of the differences between being a law student and practising the law. The transition from law student to a lawyer often comes with growing pains, particularly when you don’t know what to expect.

The Scope of Material and Working with Evolving Legislature

In law school, you’re often working with a narrow scope of material that focuses on the legal principle or a specific case. As a practising lawyer, this will seldom happen. The amount of information you’ll need to retain and understand as a lawyer is much more vast, and your tasks will never be so narrow or outlined as they are in law school.

Law school calls for general knowledge of the law itself. Once you’re a lawyer, you will have to know all the nuances in both statute and case law and know how to research them. In other words, clients won’t come to you with questions “about the law.” They’ll come to you with facts and a problem. It is then your job to figure out which areas of the law and what fine print within subsections of legislation apply to their case. Dealing with actual agencies, issuances, department orders, and constantly evolving legislation is a significant part of law practice.

The Need for Soft Skills as a Lawyer

You need more than legal knowledge to be a good lawyer. You must conduct effective and efficient interviews. Therefore having good social skills and communication skills to use with clients and other attorneys will help you understand how to go about your legal research. This skill is more valuable to your legal career than having an encyclopedia of information stored in your mind.

Personal Stakes vs. Your Clients’ Stakes

When you are in law school, the “stakes” are your grades and your job prospects. As a practising lawyer, the stakes reach far beyond your personal goals. Your client’s liberty, assets, livelihood, and business are at stake. You’re no longer playing for your future alone but someone else’s future, whether that client is facing jail time or millions in fines and damages.

Despite these new challenges, this doesn’t mean there are no longer personal stakes. Because if you excel, you’ll see high-ticket profile accounts dropping on your desk. On the other hand, if you repeatedly fail to perform, you won’t see many chances for promotion or professional opportunities. Additionally, some law firms continue to operate on “grades” even though you’re out of law school. These grades often determine salary, promotions and are public knowledge at the firm.

Paper vs. Paperless

While universities have taken significant strides in recent years to go paperless, many law students still rely on heavy case books. They’re expensive, huge, and don’t usually contain all the necessary or appropriate information. In contrast, Lawyers do not have room for additional paperwork. Thus, tablets and other technological devices are beneficial tools for them to use. While these devices can get expensive, investing in technology is worthwhile for all practitioners of the law.

As a student, you might risk using an under-performing laptop or forgo the cost of online storage. If you lose data, it may cause you lots of personal problems, but it won’t be an issue for anyone else. Conversely, practising lawyers have no extra time to spend on recovering information that could make or break a client’s case and must invest in solid-state drives for their laptops as well as cloud storage and security.

About Alexander Petraglia

Alex Petraglia currently works as a lawyer at Deters Law Office, where he has participated in Medical Malpractice trials, class suits, and wrongful injury settlements. He is devoted to protecting the health, wealth, and liberty of each client. He has strong interpersonal skills and experience in investigating cases.

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