As a follow up to previous two installments of “So You Want to Be a Lawyer,” this final presentation of informational nuggets for those currently pursuing or heavily contemplating obtaining a law degree is offered. You have successfully gained entrance to the law school of your dreams, completed three years of studying and studied and taken the bar exam. So what now?
6) Waiting on Bar Results:
I took both the Texas and New York State Bars within a year and a half of each other, and I had the same exit and post bar exam strategy for both. I made a bee line straight to the door of the examination locations, did not stop to speak with anyone and REFUSED to rehash details of the exams days and months later.
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The most stressful aspect of the three to five month period that you are waiting on your results, is the questioning from your fellow peers and family. “So what did you put down as the elements to Essay #3? Did you mention ‘respondent superior’? ”, or the all-time favorite question from family and friends: “How do you think you did ?” I DON’T FREAKING KNOW!
There is so much riding on these results and the most important issue is whether or not you will have to take this monster of an exam again. Additionally, if you have already been hired, your new firm will more than likely give you one more chance to take it and pass before actually considering firing you. However, if you have plans of practicing as a solo practitioner, the time in which you are not licensed, in fact takes so much time, money and resources away.
I have friends who passed on their very first time taking the bar and I have friends who had to take it four times before passing. Either way, the wait time in finding out your results is not the most pleasant. I actually fell out in the floor of the law firm I was clerking at once I learned I passed the bar! It was dramatic and so unlike me.
ADVICE: Do not torture yourself with looking up the answers to questions that were on the exam and/or going over details of the exam and your answers with peers. It will add unnecessary stress to an already stressful time.
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7) Admission to the State Bar:
You have passed the bar exam, now your family thinks you are rich and they begin to ask you for money and free legal advice, wonderful right? All jokes aside, before you can even begin practicing, you will need to be admitted to the bar of that state and this can be a long, arduous task. It is suggested that you begin to gather all requested documentation prior to taking the bar exam to make this process smoother. Additionally, if you are already admitted in one state, and would like to be admitted in another, this task takes even longer. By the time I sought admission to New York, I was already admitted in Texas and District of Columbia, which in turn required me to submit extensive documentation to support my previous admissions along with New York. It took approximately seven months from the time I passed the New York bar exam to get admitted into its state bar.
ADVICE: Prepare in advance. Contact the state bar for a list of all required documentation and start to gather and prepare them immediately. Some states may require you to submit this prior to taking the bar exam.
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8) Admission to Federal Courts:
Once you have been admitted into a state bar, you may now seek to be admitted into the numerous federal courts of that state. This license is necessary to come before and argue federal issues in that particular state. Once I was admitted into the Texas bar, I immediately filed to be admitted into the Southern District of the State of Texas. I had no case load for the federal courts yet, however, I thought it would make me more marketable.
Some states may require you to be sponsored by an attorney who is already admitted to that federal court, so it is best to get all required information in advance. I was asked to get licensed in all four New York federal courts when I worked with a particular firm in order to handle some bankruptcy matters.
ADVICE: Go ahead and file for admission into all of federal courts located within your practice state(s). Seek a mentor or older attorney to sponsor your request for admission. This will increase your level of assignments and also make you more marketable for other opportunities.
9) New Hires: As previously stated, several of my fellow attorney friends took different routes immediately after graduating law school. A majority of them started working as first year associates with small, medium and large firms. The work/life balance was all contingent upon the firm size and particular firm they worked for. Most new hires for a small firm work less hours and get paid less, yet, they are given more responsibility when it comes to work load.
I have noticed that those working for small firms were more likely to attend court and argue in front of a judge earlier than someone who worked at a large firm. Additionally, the friends I had working at large firms worked LONG and CRAZY hours. No matter the size of the firm you decide to commit to, as a new hire you are expected to do the work assigned with good workmanlike care and quality.
ADVICE: Understand you are going to have to work hard. You should also find a law firm that is conducive to the work/life balance you are seeking.
10) Solo Practitioners:
The solo practitioner. Oh how I could write an epic novel on the trials and tribulations of being a solo practitioner. Some law students enter law school with a clear vision and goal of “Hanging Out your Shingle” and practicing for themselves immediately after being admitted. However, some people are forced into this destiny.
The pros of being a solo practitioner are you can choose the area of law you want to work in, the clients you work with and for, the time you work, where you work, etc. The cons of being a solo practitioner are you never really know where, when and how your next clients are coming, You are responsible for retaining clients and you also have the responsibility of running an actual business. Being a solo practitioner is not for the faint at heart and it requires a lot of heart, time, planning and faith.
ADVICE: If this is your clear vision, be certain to plan prior to being admitted. You must incorporate or become a d/b/a, find office and/or virtual office space, retain clients, order supplies, pay expenses, etc. You are in control of the success and failures of your work. Be smart and get a mentor to help guide you, talk to clerks in the courts because they feel sorry for young attorneys and pray!
Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates. She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 9 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC
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