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Sobering thought

telephoneA friend told me recently about a pretty disturbing thing that’s been happening at their law firm.

My friend works in a small firm – a few lawyers, couple of paralegals and staff. They have a law clerk from an unnamed school working for them a few days a week.

Every couple of weeks when they get to work and check phone messages, there is a voicemail from some giggling, clearly drunk law students. These people apparently go to school with the law clerk and have called several times, after several cocktails, to rant about what a “loser” this guy is. I won’t go into detail, but there have been some not-so-great things left on this answering machine.

You might ask, upon reading this, the same question I asked: WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?!?!?

As a young lawyer who graduated from law school not too long ago, I can unfortunately answer the question: I know these people. Looking back at the students in my graduating class and the class years around me, I know exactly the type of people who would do such a thing.

And it bothers me.

I think about how these people will act once they “get out into the real world” (which they are in anyway during law school) and know that I wouldn’t trust them with a client’s well-being. This type of conduct should really trouble lawyers and hiring managers as they bring students in from law school that might not be mature enough to sit one-on-one with a client, represent the firm to other professionals, or handle sensitive matters.

So I have to ask – what, if anything, should or can we do about this? I know my friend’s firm, if they can figure out who these law students are, will likely write a letter to the State Bar under the assumption that the students will someday be applying for entrance. Maybe in Maryland, but maybe not – so should they have to write, then, to all 50 states?

My friend suggested instituting an interview process for incoming law students. Most other professional schools – medical, dental, dental hygiene, physician assistant – hold interviews as a prerequisite for admission. But what might that look like for law school and what questions might be asked to effectively weed out individuals with the potential to give the profession a bad image? How might hiring managers at firms adjust to account for this possibility? I’m not saying this is going to be the case every time, the majority, or even a large minority of the time – but it’s clearly out there.

I don’t know, maybe this is something that only bothers me. But, since I have an outlet to ask some other young lawyers reading this blog, please share some thoughts in the comment section.

2 comments

  1. Wow, I can’t believe that people would do that to someone, attorneys or not.

    But even though that is really awful story, I don’t think that we should implement interviews for law school or really do anything else just because of a few jerks. We have the character assessment for the bar exam, and we all know how painstaking that was. As bad as I feel for the law clerk and as upset as I would be that it was me, people make mistakes and things like this will happen regardless of what measures we take to “prevent” it. But luckily (or unluckily) your reputation follows you in the legal field so it’s not as though attorneys can get away with whatever they want!

  2. adeason48@comcast.net

    I share Tom’s outrage. I think a look at admission interviews for law students would be a good idea. After practicing law for over 30 years, I’ve found too many instances of less than ethical practice. Nonetheless, I’m very concerned about changes I perceive in the norms of different generations. I don’t view leaving such phone messages as “mistakes”, but instead as indicators of important character issues (analogous to online bullying) that the maturity of law students should no longer abide.