“Dude, sucking at something is the first step towards being sort of good at something.” -Jake the Dog, Adventure Time
It is a tautology of the legal profession that no one can master the law. Rather, law is something attorneys practice from their first day admitted to the bar to the day they retire. Every day, attorneys spend their days analyzing text, legal opinions, memorandum of law, statutes, and caselaw ala Gandalf in the library of Minas Tirith, sometimes just to decipher the meaning of the word, “chicken.” See Frigaliment Importing Co. v. B.N.S. Int’l Sales Corp., 190 F. Supp. 116 (S.D.N.Y. 1960) (“The issue is, what is a chicken?”). Hence why we in the profession call work the “practice of law” and respond to many clients’ questions with “it depends.”
If you ask ten attorneys a legal question with the same set of facts, you may have ten different conclusions with varying perceptions on the issue at hand. No one is entirely correct, but some attorneys may be more correct than others. Since the majority of cases settle before the matter is heard by a jury, the art of persuasion and leverage to convince the other attorneys that you are correct may be more effective at achieving the optimal outcome for your client than going to bat at trial. But one cannot develop a sense of their client’s leverage without the experience brought about by practice.
The philosopher Frank Jackson postulated a thought experience known as Mary’s Room. Mary was born, raised, and lives in a black and white room. However, thanks to her great intellect and educational resources, Mary knows everything about the theory of color, from the scientific principles behind the visible light spectrum to comprehending what people mean when they say, “The sky is blue.” However, she has never experienced color herself. One day, Mary opens the door and experiences color for the first time. Has Mary learned something new about color? I would argue the answer to be “yes.” While Mary may have known everything there is to know about color, she could not know what it is like to experience color without the experience itself.
Likewise, the law student who graduates the top of their class may know every theory behind the philosophy of law, the legislative intent when a law was crafted, and understand how a law may be interpreted by the different justices on the Supreme Court of the United States, I can guarantee that the law student’s palms will be sweaty the first time they stand up and introduce themselves to a judge in open court. Without the indelible experience of practicing law, one cannot begin to master the legal profession.
Considering the need for practice, it is incumbent on senior attorneys to reach back to junior attorneys and for junior attorneys to reach back to law students in order to demystify the profession. Senior attorneys can assign low-stake hearings to junior associates so get in the repetitions needed to feel confident addressing a court. Junior attorneys can answer questions law students may have about steering their activities to land in the field of law which interests them the most. Better yet, helping law students connect with other attorneys can provide that vital foothold for a law student to become the next great crusader.
No one is going to practice law forever. An attorney may be blessed with retirement or tragedy may cut short a promising career. As officers of the court, it is our duty to ensure that the law and society are better than when we found it. Therefore, we must ensure that each generation coming up trained to be in best position possible to carry the torch and run the never-ending race to contributing towards a “more perfect union.” Perfection is unobtainable, but practice makes perfect sense.
The Law Firm of DiOrio & Sereni, LLP is a full-service law firm in Media, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. We strive to help people, businesses and institutions throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania solve legal problems – and even prevent legal problems before they occur. To learn more about the full range of our specific practice areas, please visit www.dioriosereni.com or contact Paul M. Carrion, Esquire at 610-565-5700 or at [email protected].
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