October 26, 2022
It can be difficult to separate fact from fiction, especially with the prominence of lawyers in pop culture and current affairs. In this engaging event for students planning to begin law school in August 2024, a legal profession optimist is put “on trial” and confronted with some of the negative claims about the profession. Their honest take on these claims will help you walk away with a better understanding of what the legal profession is really like — and give you the confidence in your ability to create your own future.
Collin: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the law of Prelaw Success live events series. My name is Collin Takita. And I am the director of prelaw learning here at LSAC. If you’re joining us today, for the first time, you picked a good one to start. I think we’re gonna have a bit of fun today. As I’ve said many times before, this series of live events is made specifically for you, and specifically to help and help you answer critical questions along your journey to law school and the legal profession. Now, sometimes those questions that you’re asking are negative, meaning, they’re hard questions about the profession itself. In fact, there are a lot of misconceptions about the legal profession, rumors and opinions about the profession, which sometimes paint it in an unfavorable light. Now, as is common with rumors, sometimes they’re just that rumors. But sometimes there are nuggets of truth sprinkled in. And frankly, it’s difficult to pick out the truth, but also difficult to process how the negative can outweigh the positive, even if the negative isn’t 100% accurate. So today, what we’re going to do is something actually pretty fun. What we’re going to do is pit a legal profession optimist, our defendant, against a prosecutor who holds those common negative claims about the profession as fact, and wishes to expose the ugliness of the profession, the optimist in turn, we will make a case in favor of the legal profession. And in the process, the optimist will either correct some of those assumptions or accept them as reality, but maybe explain why they’re not as bad as they might seem. So, before we get started, I want to offer a bit of a disclaimer. Neither of the people, particularly the prosecutor on this on this call, hate the legal profession, both of them got their law degree, both of them use their degree every single day in different ways. So just want to throw that out there. The prosecutor is asking hard questions, because he’s stepping into this role to have some fun and bring you a quasi-courtroom drama, in which our optimist is a defendant on trial fielding these difficult questions from the prosecutor. They’ll use some courtroom terms throughout and really embrace their roles. But know that these two are playing roles today to give you a different look at some of these tough questions surrounding the legal profession.
Now, they will be having a Q&A at the end in which they can you know, resume their lives and become their real selves again, so make sure you ask questions throughout the program so they can answer those questions after the fact. Okay, now, let’s get to who’s joining us today. So first, I’ll ask Arash, Micaily to turn on his camera. Arash is the Senior Associate General Counsel here at LSAC. He is a transactional attorney who has been practicing law for approximately 13 years in a variety of capacities. He’s going to be our prosecutor for today asking the hard questions. Today, I’m also joined by David Jaffe. David, I’m gonna ask you to turn on your camera. David is the Associate Dean for Student Affairs at American University, Washington College of Law, and his work on wellness issues among law students over the past two decades, he has served on the DC Bar Lawyer Assistance Program, including as its chair and continues to serve on the ABA commission on lawyer assistance programs. David has coauthored copiloted and coproduced many works, including It is Ok to Not Be Ok. The 2021 survey of law student wellbeing and he practices mindfulness by being in the moment with his daughters whenever he can. So welcome David. Welcome, Arash. I’m excited to have you both here today. I’m going to hand things over to David now, for your opening statement. Let’s get started.
David: Thank you, Collin, while I’m going to ask off the top to reserve my rebuttal for questions from the prosecutor, I would simply say off the top that if you are interested in going to law school, you should go to law school, there is nothing that ultimately should impede you from doing so. There may be some challenge challenges as Collin suggested, there may be some difficult questions to ask and have answered and hopefully we’ll be able to do some of that today. But I do believe in my heart with very, very few exceptions that if the if law school is something that is a calling for you, it’s something you want to proceed.
Arash: David, thanks for the introduction. I’m here to present the case about why you should carefully consider whether it is in your best interest to pursue a career in the legal profession. As a first-generation American citizen, I actually come from a family where everybody else is a doctor. And there was only really two paths that were given to us either doctor or lawyer. And I chose the path of lawyer which was deviation from the rest of my family. After four years of completing undergraduate studies and three years of law school, I quickly learned that the legal profession is a business similar to other professions. And although it can be presented as to the public as a career where the focus is just truth and justice and seeking those out, the bottom line is that the legal profession is a profession, and the pursuit of money affects you just like every other profession that you operate in. And your ability to earn a living will depend often on how well you act in within their profession and the relationships that you can build with clients. And we all need to consider that when we’re considering a career at law.
Now, for my opening question to David, why did you pursue a career in law?
David: It’s a great opening question. I was I was told by my PE teacher in seventh grade when I was breaking up a fight through mediation, that I would go on to become a terrific lawyer. I held on to that, I guess for a number of years afterwards, I think I probably fell into the law. As many future lawyers do a little bit a little bit backwards. I had a successful college, career and education didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. The sight of blood kind of scared me a little bit. I didn’t think I was terrific with numbers. So, business kind of ruled me out. I was like law school. I remember that PE professor. And I remember the arguments and engagements I’ve had with family and other since then, let’s try this out. And then my passions kind of developed as I got into and work my way through school.
Arash: Isn’t it true that the objective of financial prosperity played a big factor in your decision whether you want to become a lawyer or not?
David: It did not actually, I had the experience of working as a paralegal for a large law firm in New York for three years actually, prior to law school. And one of the things I decided on that basis was that I never wanted to be a big law lawyer. I didn’t like how it felt I didn’t like what what I saw and what I was doing, per se, but I knew that there were other opportunities for the law that I could take advantage of and decided that law school and that education was going to be for me, regardless, finances never played, never played a factor in my mind.
Arash: So isn’t a true even based on your experience, whether you are a big law or small law attorney, the main thing you will have to do in order to make a living is sell your client and upsell the client on things that they may or may not need to make a profit.
David: Ahh no, I would respectfully disagree with that assessment, I think we could we could break the profession down into a lot of ways. Certainly, big law, as many of the listeners may know it, or kind of working with large law firms and corporate and litigation type settings, will have a client model and will be largely driven on some bottom line issues in terms of revenue. But the law has myriad myriad opportunities, many, many of which are low Bono pro bono, we can talk about challenges to succeeding in or having a successful legal education and still being able to successfully have a legal career. But there are myriad opportunities 1000s of opportunities where individuals will not be looking for and not necessarily need the financial prosperity but are just looking for ways to ways to serve their clients to serve justice to if I make make the world a better place at the end of the day.
Arash: Wouldn’t you say that it’s true that the majority of lawyers will turn out in a case they don’t think it’ll result in a financial benefit to them?
David: No, I don’t. I don’t I think that there, they’re probably like, like many of the some of the issues we’ll have in the legal professions, there are attorneys who may be in a position and may choose to decide on cases on a case-by-case basis. But again, as I as I suggested a minute ago, the opportunities out there to well, there’s an athlete, I should say there’s an ethical obligation to work with clients. And to some degree, depending on the matter. We’re talking about to take clients as you find them and to work with them, regardless, but you’re going to find space for a client is going to find an opportunity for an attorney, an attorney is going to largely depending on the setting, have obligations to take on and work with those clients and work with the clients in the setting that the client is seeking.
Arash: What would you say the primary goal of an attorney is when he’s representing their client, his client, his or her claim?
David: Yeah, I mean, it’s it’s it’s gonna sound trite, but it’s it’s it’s justice. First and foremost. I mean, depending on the issue, justice or equity or fairness may be the issue, but it is ultimately is ultimately representing the best wishes of the client. I mean, zealous representation is one of the canons of ethics. And it is going to be the attorney’s obligation to support that client with whatever it is that he or she is seeking or the corporation may be seeking in a particular matter.
Arash: Isn’t it true that your ability to manipulate the truth and the jury are actually key factors in your success as an attorney?
David: Well, I might take issue with the word manipulation. I think if manipulation is talking about fabrication, no. But I think that the law has been sometimes idealized about what individuals may see, you know, on TV or through social media. And you actually have the, again, not only the obligation, but the obligation for truth, and not to lie on behalf of a client. But you do have the opportunity through the particular case matter to work through the issues and the facts that are going to best support your client that is different from lying or manipulating. But it is about working creatively, as an attorney, to figure out the best advantages to kind of consider what the adversary the individual across the aisle might be thinking about, and ensuring that your client is best positioned. So again, not fabrication, not manipulation, per se, but certainly making the facts of the matter work to the best advantage of your client. And that is that is not only entirely ethical but but appropriate and what any attorney should be doing.
Arash: Understanding that if they’re not going to call it manipulation, what would you say is the most important skill for a lawyer to have before they are develop and maintain through the career in law?
David: Sure, I mean, I would say and individuals may differ on this, I think it’s listening. We can, we can speak subjectively, about how we might feel about listening and active listening. empathetic listening can be important depending on the particular situation, but an attorney is going to have to be able to listen is going to obviously have to be able to understand or and or research and develop, develop the facts that matters. Well, the facts are there but established the law understand the law around the case, again, bring his or her best foot forward in terms of representation of the client. But all of that is based is going to be the ability to listen to ask questions, to have an understanding of what the client’s expectations and desires are. And then to see those through to to ideally successful completion.
Arash: How we’re piggybacking on that topic of having a skill set of listening, how important is it for you to listen closely to your counterparty when considering otherwise other than for the purpose of breaking down their argument? I would argue that listening to your client may take prep or take precedence. But often you’re trying to take advantage of a Counterparty who’s in a low position in their life. Isn’t there a concern about the well being of the counterparty?
David: The and this is one of the areas that individuals can have challenges with but the the, the interests of the counterparty are the responsibility of the attorney of the counterparty. That’s why that individual is or should be represented. My role as my attorney as an attorney for my client is again to zealously represent the client to represent his or her interest to ensure that they’re being brought forward. It may ultimately be at the sacrifice of the counterparty, and indeed, that is part of the legal system. And the process is to have two parties have issues that are hashed out or worked out whatever format or form it might be, ultimately, ideally, to the perhaps not the happy resolution of both parties, but to a resolution that has been has been concluded through successful representation and support of the clients involved in that matter.
Arash: What didn’t you say as a lawyer, being a good liar is an important skill to have?
David: No, I would, I would respectfully disagree with my esteemed colleagues, prosecutor. I think being creative, as I alluded to a couple of minutes ago is incredibly important. I think, well, we’ve all learned since we were little about what line does at the end of the day, I will clearly you know, I will throw out here, among other things, a phrase that was said by somebody far wiser than I, which is that if you never lie, you never have to remember what it is you said. Or conversely, if you always tell the truth, you don’t have to remember what you said because it was the truth but no lying does not have a role in this creativity does. But there’s a clear line between the two.
Arash: Is it ever appropriate to lie as a lawyer?
David: It is never appropriate to lie as a lawyer?
Arash: Even if it will benefit your client?
David: We can go through the canons in the ethics and I trust that my esteemed colleague across the aisle understands those ethics and obligations as well as I’d like to believe that I do and there is never never never a position or a place for an attorney to be lying but for his own his own character is rapid presentation, the representation of the client’s upholding of justice at the end of the day. No.
Arash: As a lawyer, would you ever lose the case and or pass up on winning the case to maintain the truth?
David: I would like to believe that my my ethical obligation and duty is to work with the facts as made available to work with. And I’ll go back to a word that my esteemed colleagues use to manipulate the facts. If they work to the benefit of my client myself without lying, it is ultimately left for depending on the forum for the judge or a jury or a mediator as it may be to work through a matter. And so, I can bring out the best, but I’ve got to do it in a truthful, forthright manner.
Arash: I appreciate that optimist. That being said, my next question is, isn’t the objective in any case or any business to maximize your profit isn’t don’t we all isn’t the final goal to get the case to court?
David: I think that’s one of the kind of misunderstandings about the legal legal profession. Again, as we as we discussed closer to the top, there are many, many different ways that a client will enter the profession or work with an attorney. And there are many ways to resolve issues at the end of the day. There are and I guess I would look back to big law we’re in oftentimes instances are you’re talking about billable hours, which is one of our catchphrases and attorneys having to getting paid or charging a certain amount per hour and having to earn or complete fulfill a certain number of hours over the course of a week, a month, a year, etc. And so, there are some bottom-line challenges that come up, particularly in larger and larger firms, but not exclusively. But ultimately, our goal, if we’re proceeding ethically as attorneys is to again, is to represent our clients as best as possible. And to do so in a manner that is not an upsell, which, again, is not the same as saying you may have a difficult matter and a difficult client. And you may find yourself having to put in significant hours of research of preparing for court of appearing in court of mediation, whatever it might be, and those are hard hours. And that’s where an attorney is making his or her money and has the right ultimately working towards what is a hopeful positive resolution for his or her client to charge a rate that quite frankly, whatever it is, has been accepted upon by the client during an initial or subsequent conversation. And so, it’s out there, it’s it’s a contract, it’s an agreement at the end of the day, it should be open, it should be transparent. And then both the client and the attorney and his or her firm or partners, associates, whoever is working on it should be proceeding accordingly.
Arash: So, understanding your response, there are certain times when it isn’t appropriate to go to court, could you give me an example of when it isn’t appropriate to go to court?
David: Well, in truth, in fact, I and the numbers differ, but anywhere between 80, upwards of 95 97% of lawsuits or cases that are brought or filed don’t actually end up in trial. Trial is meant for ultimately for an impasse that cannot be resolved. And this can be at the at the familial level, you know, to parties’ divorces, and example, it can be at a corporate level, you know, corporations pitting against each other in a number of matters. But the majority based upon those numbers, the overwhelming majority of cases are not going to trial, they are working through resolution, back and forth. Again, it may be mediation, and maybe meetings and conversation ultimately. And and I don’t want to say ideally, but again, citing those numbers, in most cases to the maybe not ideal satisfaction of both parties. But oftentimes the resolution, particularly short of trial is that both parties don’t get exactly what they want. And they’re left maybe less than entirely happy but satisfied, ideally satisfied with the ultimate outcome.
Arash: Speaking about neither party getting exactly what they want. Doesn’t the legal profession just reinforced the concept that justice is only really available for the wealthy? Well off and rich?
David: No, I had that one. I will I will absolutely disagree. We are, as I said, suggested a while ago, the the legal profession is, is well saturated, sounds like a negative word. But it is deep, deep, deep with individuals who are out serving justice for their client’s oftentimes earning very little money, oftentimes, and maybe we’ll have a chance to discuss this as well, but oftentimes facing some of their law school debt issues and saying I came to law school with the goal of changing x or y or serving the underprivileged. And I find myself in a position where I’m not getting paid a lot or I may not get paid a lot as I’m looking, you know, as a law student looking ahead, but this is work that I care about. And so I’m going to figure out the finances, and I’m going to make this work and it’s not necessary. Pro Bono, although that’s a phrase that we use a lot, and we can talk more about pro bono. But it may simply be working with clients in a community setting in a, quite frankly, even within law firms. But in settings where part of the work in a law firm or full-time work for attorneys is I am going to charge a much lesser slash acceptable rate because the individuals with whom I’m working are as entitled to justice as anybody else. But I also have to understand and respect that they can only afford what they can afford. And we are again, I don’t know why saturated is coming to mind. But we are, we are very, very solid in terms of representation in the legal profession, with institutions, with attorneys who are dedicating their careers and their lives to that type of work.
Arash: Piggybacking on your comment about the amount of student debt and loan debt that the student will incur in order to become a lawyer, isn’t the bottom line that attending law school and pursuing a career law is a lengthy and super expensive process that just isn’t worth the financial investment?
David: Well, counselor, I’m going to try to break that down a little bit. I don’t know how to define lengthy. I can, I can tell you from a practical standpoint, my purchase Dean of Students, I invariably, I will I will meet with students as first year students, I assume our audience knows, or I shouldn’t assume, but law students are typically going through either three or four years of law school, in most instances, three years of full time, four years as part time, I will invariably have opportunities to meet with students as first years. And through a challenge that they might be having, or through just the very nature of the first year of law school. And I will tell them with a smile that it is going to be whatever the timeframe is two years, two and a half years hence on the eve of their commencement where we’re going to run into each other again. And I’m going to ask them, do you remember when we met in October of next year, and they are going to tell me almost without fail, Dean Jaffe, it feels like it was yesterday, doesn’t always feel that way when I’m meeting with them as first year students, but they get back and it’s it’s blink of an eye. So, in terms of the time investment, you know, three years, four years for the investment, you’re putting in your dedication, whether it whether it is money or income that you’re looking for and door to serve justice, you know, to do both, certainly. And to do it nobly. The time I think is well spent. Money can be a challenge; tuition can be a challenge. I run the risk, I suppose in speaking on behalf of one law school that I know has charges a significant tuition, as do many, many law schools in the country. I believe that a student and I said this off the top who wants to get a legal education but feels absolutely hamstrung on the financial side that financial aid is not enough. Other circumstances don’t allow to to afford maybe the education of XY and Z schools. There are myriad, myriad, myriad the word I was looking for unsaturation there myriad attorney serving in a pro bono area. And I’ll use it here again, there are a myriad law for law schools that are they may be state schools where they’re charging less, there may be just schools that that through their own kind of device are charging less than tuition and students will receive a quality legal education there I have, I have no doubt if it’s an Accredited Law School, under the American Bar Association, students are gonna have an opportunity to receive a quality education and go on to have a successful career.
Arash: Well, if that’s the case, why do you only 23% of law school graduates say that their degree is worth the cost? While 58% of medical school graduates say that their degree is worth the cost? Wouldn’t those numbers be closer if what you were saying is accurate?
David: That is a good question. I don’t know if I have a great answer to that I can tell you that the depending on when those numbers are actually surveyed, my my kind of generate my generate my response. So, what I mean by that is that not all graduates law graduates have jobs at the time of graduation. So, if they’re being served in in terms of the satisfaction of their law school education, at a time in which employment has not yet come through, I would expect those numbers to be higher. In other words, well, are the students to be less satisfied and concern? I think there are some additional concerns about the legal profession that a number of us and many, many around the country are looking to address that cause some distress and negativity within the profession itself. And that may also kind of drive those numbers down, although quite frankly, there are challenges in the medical profession as well. So maybe the survey is skewed. That’s what I’m gonna go with.
Arash: I have to admit, I’m not sure when that data was collected or whether it remains accurate today. I know that both professions are are going through changing economic climate. So, I appreciate your answer. Is it a career law primarily targeted to white males who have other family members with experience in law?
David: No, I would I would object to that characterization counselor. The law is geared towards. And again, I hate to sound trite, but the law, let me qualify this the law, the law should be geared towards anybody who wants to practice and engage in the law. I think historically, we’ve done less than a stellar job of being as supportive of certain communities of disenfranchised of marginalized communities. This has some basis in standardized tests and problems with them. Also, the challenges, is it fair that one individual can afford to pay for assistance and tutors and an education that may platform him or her for better numbers to get into law school 10, other than others, we need to do a better job in the pipeline. And I may have different views than others. But I think we should be talking about the law not just to individuals who are thinking about law school two years out, but individuals who are thinking about it in high school, and even prior to that, and indeed, there are some programs that do that in more simplistic ways, but kind of as a foundation. The numbers don’t necessarily I think the numbers are changing. I’m proud of the numbers that at my law school, and there many, many other law schools as well, where the diversity numbers are extremely strong, both in terms of gender, but so also in terms of diversity, ethnicity, and things of that nature. So, I would, I would respectfully refute that comment, the law is available to, I believe, to anybody who wants to engage in it.
Arash: Myself, I’ve been somewhat encouraged to hear about the efforts that law schools and law firms are being are making reasonably to improve their diversity. However, the numbers are the numbers and we just got to keep that in mind. Speaking of numbers, isn’t it true that a career at law is more likely to lead to alcoholism, depression and an overall unhappy life?
David: I’m going to respectfully disagree. Again, there are numbers out there I’m I’m I guess, somewhat proud, as Collin suggested off the top a copilot of a survey that was looking at issues that law students in the legal profession, I also know that there have been parallel surveys, I’m sorry, issues at law schools, but there have been parallel surveys in the legal profession as well, about depression, about anxiety, about substance use, about mental health. The numbers are challenging, their numbers are not ideal. But and I’m gonna speak more closely, I’m happy to address the profession as well more closely here towards my sweet spot in the law school, I believe. Let me strike that comment. I believe that both the law schools and the legal profession have been taking probably over the last really seven to nine years taking some strong steps towards addressing some of the issues that have been around both the profession and schools around these kinds of challenges, these these these adversarial kind of vices, if you will, or mental health challenges that individuals are facing, we’re looking and this is a collective, we are looking to make this to create a more holistic approach to the wellbeing of attorneys, and of law students. Some of this, and I’m, this is a little bit risky to say, but I hope you’ll hear me out counselor, we know at least in the law school setting, that a lot of the issues that the law students bring to bear in law school actually have very little to do with law school itself. And what I mean by that is that we’re seeing oftentimes that that trauma that issues that that our current students have experienced, are pre prior to law school, these may be personal issues, familial issues, witnesses to other types of tragedies and things like that. But issues nevertheless, that these individuals’ applicants to law school, and then law students have not taken the time to address. And so, they then get to law school, which is kind of finishing school, a very small percentage of individuals are going to do something other than practice law, once they graduate. And so, this is really the last opportunity to take a breath to take stock of what it is that’s going on in their lives that may be inhibiting their ability to proceed successfully through school, in this case, through law school as attorneys, and to look to take steps to get them out of the way. Now, to be fair, law school may be an accelerant to some degree, right? There are some traditions that we could certainly debate and some other challenges that students have to overcome. There’s the you know, the change of geography, oftentimes, there’s the change or transition from college, which is kind of a for some kind of a surreal first time experience, now to really having to kind of drill down and take things seriously. There is the tuition that we discussed, kind of alongside with the concern, am I going to have a job that will be able to pay down whatever, whatever loans or debt that I may have when I graduate? There’s the newness of law school, it’s a new language, it is a lot of reading. And then there’s a very real kind of practical, I believe, instance that almost regardless of the law school, we are skimming law students from the top of the top of universe cities around the country. Those students for the first time find themselves in a class where they may not be the smartest one in the row within their classroom, let alone the classroom. And so, all of a sudden, it’s like, wow, what do I do with this? I’m now around some smart people. And I’ve got to figure out how to I don’t have to be the smartest in the class. But I have to kind of manage some of the anxiety I’m having around this. I’m finally being maybe being pushed for the first time, together with those other so-called accelerants, how do I kind of become more accepted? How do I become comfortable? How do I overcome impostor syndrome and feeling like maybe I don’t deserve to be here and things of that nature? So, there are challenges at the end of the day, I think that there are that they are all surmountable. And actually, can’t remember where that question started. On that basis. I think we around alcoholism and mental health and all those other issues, the legal profession is looking to do the same. One could try to run a search on the the new titles that are popping up in law firms Chief Chief Health Officer, Chief Well-being Officer, there have been professionalism officers for years at law firms, but they’re now taking on some additional titles where the partners are those who are doing the hiring in these administrative sometimes attorney, but administrative positions are looking or at least trying to figure out how they can create some balance between, in some instances, the bottom line, the kind of revenue, the income that’s being generated, together with well-being issues around retention, work life balance, things of that nature. It’s a big ship, it moves really, really slowly, seven years sounds like a large amount of time. But given when you think about the history of the legal profession, even within big law firms, that’s a really small kind of sample size. But I think if we’re having this conversation, even five, six years from now, we’re going to be talking even more positively about the changes that have been made. Sorry for that long winded answer. I feel very strongly about these issues.
Arash: I appreciate the sobering, sobering response to the question about alcoholism. But for my final question, what I would like to give you is this to consider? Isn’t it true that you basically refuted the numbers and the statistics the whole way? Which would mean what I expect to be true of most lawyers? Isn’t it true that most lawyers are bad at math?
David: I’m bad at math, I’ll own that. Counselor, I have often joked that, that that law students or individuals fall into law school because they’re bad at math, ultimately, no, it’s not the case at the end of the day. And and you know, to be fair, particularly with, you know, smaller law firms with individual solo practitioners, small firms, math becomes incredibly important, because you’re probably doing a lot of accounting, all the things we were talking about when you’re doing billing and having to manage other things, math becomes incredibly important. For the rest of us. Some of us might have run from business school thinking about math as being a big factor, I probably would confess as being one of those individuals. We figure it out as we go, we work. You know, we work with support, we find others to help us out. But yeah, you can be good at numbers and be a great lawyer, and you can be awful in numbers and also find support and you still going to be a terrific attorney.
Arash: Thank you for that response. After hearing it. Regarding your response to the question about math, I withdraw that question.
David: That’d be motion to strike if we got a judge.
Arash: Thank you for that. Well, that was great. I particularly like that we ended on the question about math, because as a math person myself, I think it’s funny when we hear rumors about lawyers not being good at math, because it’s as as you both pointed out, right, that it’s certainly there’s certainly a place for numbers in the law. And then there’s also plenty you can do without numbers in the law. So I think that that’s a great example of a misconception which has a lot of traction, but has a pretty easy case against it being true. Right, so Well, thank you, both David and Arash, for playing your parts in the last 40 minutes or so we’re going to start Q&A. So those of you who are still with us, make sure you send over questions for a rush and David to answer before we get into questions, though, I want to give you a rush the opportunity to clarify anything that maybe you feel needs clarifying i because as I said at the beginning, you were playing the part of prosecutor so you were asking hard questions. And as I said before that you don’t actually hate the law. And a lot of the questions you asked could come off as if you believe those misconceptions or you feel strongly that the law has these major issues. I wanted to give you an opportunity to clear the air as it were with some of the folks who are with us on the call today.
Arash: Yeah, that’s a great point, Collin, and thank you. I would say that a lot of my questions were based upon misconceptions that I held heading into law school, so I tried to focus and drill on those points. One thing that I believed was that you know, every case ends up at trial. And I can tell you, I’ve been practicing law for 13 years and I’ve never been in the courtroom. Most cases do not go A trial, I thought David did a great job of explaining how that cow case is typically, you know, are settled or negotiated or reasoned or, or people basically get to the point of, you know, we can we can agree to compromise here. And that’s often the solution. And it’s working with both sides of the of the party. So although you represent your client, eventually, in order to reach a resolution, you’ve got to get your counterparty to agree as well. And that’s one of the reasons why I asked questions about not caring about the well-being of others, because the end of the day, you got to care about everybody’s well-being to reach into solution and answer.
David: Right, yeah, and I would simply add, I think this relates to it, we the Q&A, the line that we were doing with my now friend, Aris was was really not conducive to this. But at the end of the day, to me, it really comes up to comes down to you as the individual, right, you can get caught and we can talk some more about wellness and issues like that, and the challenges in the profession I’d be happy to for as long as we have time, the end of the day, each student really needs to, and I forgive me for sounding trite, but you need to kind of think about what am I? What are my strengths? What are my character strengths that I can bring forward into the law school in the profession? What are my challenges or shortcomings that I start to see? And what do I do about them to either overcome them myself, or if it’s something I don’t have to do myself, we were making fun of math, for example, what do I do to have that supplemented or supported somewhere else, but it’s about me at the end of the day, right? I can be in an engineering class of 400 students, and I can walk in and say, I’m never going to be as smart as everybody else here. And you may not be, but if that ultimately takes you over. And that’s all you’re focused on; you’re going to struggle. Conversely, you got to law school on by virtue on by dint of a lot of strengths that you have that were you know, raised by whoever raised you your own kind of support networks, your own, just kind of, you know, strength and development, things that values all of those things. And those are the strengths you’re going to look to rely on. And as those come out, and you further develop them, some of the other kinds of concerns and challenges are going to start to add because you’re just going to be shining in the space that you were at your strongest.
Arash: I couldn’t agree more. And I saw a question in the chat about how do we prepare for the newness of law school. There’s obviously things you can do to prepare your mind for it. But we that’s kind of the beauty of law school, everyone kind of enters with it being new to them. And it’s like David very accurately said in his responses. It is a new language that you’re learning and a new way of communicating and a new way of even doing class. I mean, most classes go by the Socratic method, or at least they did when I was in law school by now, they might have deviated so you’re often getting your answers responded to in the form of a question. And adjusting your mind to learn and obtain information based on that format is a different exercise within itself. And I think that, honestly, people adjust at a slower and faster rates, but you will adjust it’s a matter of progress and being patient with yourself and relying on those strengths that David mentioned that you’ve already built your fundamental building blocks growing up in education.
David: Yeah. 100%. And if I can piggyback on that we’re both reaching are trying to look at some of the questions that have come in, there was a question about I used finishing school. And the question whether it now is the scope of potential career paths, it does not, you and I can go from kind of reverse here from small to big, you may find prior to or in law school that you are not. You don’t like oral advocacy; you don’t want to stand up in front of a judge or a jury. That’s not you, that’s fine. That is but I don’t have the percentage of it that is but a small percentage of the legal career, whether you’re doing advocacy work, whether you’re doing again, you know, just just scores and scores of the areas in the work where you’re doing mediation, and resolution and things like that, where it’s going to be more kind of client based, maybe other party-based client base. And quite frankly, there will be a small percentage to be sure. But there will be law graduates who either come into school, there was a question about entrepreneurship, and or graduate school into a business profession, because they’ve actually learned how to edit base, how to assess the situation, how to think about challenges that may be there and how to overcome them. But also really, you’re forming, you’re developing a more analytical mind. And that is going to serve you in almost any profession that is out there. So, when I say finishing school, I meant more like you’re probably not going on to another degree. Some will go on to PhDs or STDs, but very, very, very small and others are going to be going into the legal profession or something related and there are I wish I could remember the name of the book, there was a wonderful woman by the name of Kimm Walton, two M’s who passed away to younger than age but she had published I think it was the greatest places greatest places to work with a law degree or something to that nature. Somebody wanted to look it up and it is just just chock full of pages and pages of where one could go and one could obviously just do a Google Google search and find the same.
Arash: Absolutely, a great answer. I mean, I’m trying to see some of the other questions, I saw a question about bases based off based off of the prosperity factor is it more of a thing depending on region?
Collin: So, I will throw in there that that for that came in at the time you were talking about whether or not you accept a case, if the if the financial benefit would be lower for you, in case you needed that additional framing.
Arash: I honestly don’t think it’s a regional thing. I think it’s a it’s a person thing, who you work for who you are as a person and who you have to answer to, I think in a big law firm, obviously, there was more pressure to Bill hours and raise revenue for the company. So often, you will take avenues or paths that lead you in that direction, because we all want to be successful in our career, whatever we’re doing. And that’s the path of success in big law more, more so than in smaller law firms. And then pro bono type of work. And then obviously, there’s a whole nonprofit area of law like which I operate in where that’s not a focus at all in terms of our choices on what to do and whatnot, because we’re mission based, and mission oriented. And what it really comes down to is, there’s a lot of paths in law that you can take or things you can do with a law degree. Big law just gets the most recognition publicly. And then, you know, on TV and stuff, Law and Order type lawyers get the most recognition. But the truth is most lawyers don’t fall into those two buckets.
David: Right. Right. And again, thinking back on that, I think a little bit or maybe segwaying, I’m not sure. There were a couple of questions asked here. One about the wellness issues in the legal profession, the main challenges, the challenges, the biggest challenge is really the billable hour. And we could probably spend another couple of hours on it. But as and again, we’re talking more about big law, not that big law is the only issues around mental health and wellness. But it is the it is the constant kind of expectation or goal of an attorney having to fulfill a certain number of hours over the course of a period of time over a year, let’s say in order to continue to operate within the firm. And that presents problems, it starts to trickle down to and I’m throwing out random examples. But to the you know, the Friday afternoon associate who is planning on leaving for the weekend getting a call or an email from a senior associate or partner that saying you’re gonna have to work this weekend because our client has asked for XY and Z, or worse getting the call on a Saturday at a birthday party and saying I’m sorry that you’re with your daughter or son at a birthday party. But we need to get this done over the weekend. Those attitudes continue to prevail. They are changing again, slowly but for the better. And I guess an unasked, unasked question there. But what could we do as future law students in the profession when you get there, when you have the opportunity? And you’re asking these questions as an applicant of law firms and prospective employers, ask them what they’re doing around wellbeing? What are they doing around work life balance, because I want to be somebody who wants to raise a family and have a life outside that? Right now, the questions may seem a little bit tougher, the law firms, I don’t know if this is necessarily the case, but in some instances may look at the applicant and say, Gee, why is she asking that? I wonder if she has a personal issue. And that’s why it’s being raised. We’re gonna get to the point where that’s going to flip the script is going to be flipped and the law firms are going to either be proactive about raising what they’re doing, or not going to make any judgments based on it because every applicant is asking that question and the understanding is going to have to be we as a law firm have to figure out what we’re doing and do something better because we can’t continue to sustain it in the way we’re doing.
Arash: I couldn’t agree more. I want to try to jump on Markel house question because it’s a great one. Markel asked, What are the drawbacks of going in house? Is this especially difficult to do? Markel? I can tell you that that was my objective from when I was about in my third year of big law forward and the drawbacks are just that you have a certain limitation typically on how much you will earn, as opposed to being in a big law firm like you’d have the potential to earn more typically exists with big law firms, unless your in house job comes with some, you know, stock options or something of that nature that’s based on equity that can make you kind of take your revenue to another roof. Now, what are the benefits? The first thing is what Mr. Jaffe has said repeatedly throughout here, the billable hour does not exist when you work in house. So, you’re able to maintain a work life balance that doesn’t exist. When you’re in a big law firm, and you reach the level of partner like a partner at a big law firm is that’s like almost a 24/7 job because bringing in business as your main goal not working on the law. So, it’s round the clock it’s you know, taking this client out to the Phillies game. Sorry, I went with Philadelphia because where I’m from, or you know, going with this client to some restaurant and it’s a it’s an it’s around the clock, both social Oh and professional job working in house, you work typical hours that you would work like, you know, eight to six. And when you go home, you have a little bit of stuff that maybe comes through on an emergency basis, but you’re able to basically operate on your own schedule and have your family time. But the end of the day, the biggest difference is you have one client when you’re in house, and that’s your company, as opposed to whoever the client is that day, which is when you’re a lawyer.
Arash: Yeah, great answer. Collin, we’re trying to I think, reaching out and trying to grab the questions as they’re coming up. I know, there’s a question here about pros and cons of working in public interest law. And I might try to shoehorn that back into how do you maintain your mental health through law school as a lawyer in our research, and by doing that one at the back end, as well. Pros and cons of public interest versus big law firm, and I want to be supportive, not necessarily entirely defensive, but supportive of big law as well. But public interest law is, is most typically something that we talked about this during the back and forth is something that you’ve dedicated yourself to is a passion, I want to focus on this area of change, or advocacy. And so, I’m going into this eyes open to be able to do that it’s gonna have its own challenges, to be sure. But I’m doing it with the passion and the dedication that drove me to go to law school, or maybe somebody who sparked an interest while I was in law school to move in that direction, right? Biggest challenge, most of those jobs don’t pay well, or certainly as well as big law. Now, where I want to defend the law a little bit in this regard is that you can do public interest law in a law firm and law firms will do a degree and some greater than others are going to support that. And this is the notion of pro bono coming up again, you’re going to in almost every big law setting, you’re going to have an opportunity to either work with a pro pro pro bono department or an individual within the firm, or it probably in some instances, also be able to say I’d like to work in this area of advocacy, and you will be able to have an opportunity, whatever you want to call it a set aside or space, where either some of those hours or depending on the law firm sets it up is actually priding itself on the fact that its attorneys are working and taking on pro bono cases, it is not going to be public interest law writ large, you’re not going to be doing 100% at a time, it’s going to be a small percentage, but it does give you the opportunity to think about at least maybe out of the chute, I want to pay down some of my loans and debt, I have the opportunity to go into a law firm, I’m going to keep an eye on the prize at the end of the day of what my passion is. But I might be able to also dip a toe in pro bono work while I’m there. And then in filed final defense, there are individuals who want to go and be successful in big law and do it happily and successfully. And I don’t begrudge that at all. So, my sounds like a strange line. But some of my closest friends are big law attorneys, and they I graduated, you know, 25 years ago, 30 years ago, now, they’ve been very happy in the profession, but they’ve had to work through this work life balance, how do I take care of myself, my family, and then just very, very quick, because I’m taking up a lot of time here in terms of taking care of oneself. The main thing I say to my students find an outlet, you cannot be law 100% of the time, and we could go through a litany, but but you know what it is it whatever it is that’s kept you balanced in college, or if you’re end up being out for a couple years, bring that forward, meditation, yoga, I don’t care if it’s binge watching Netflix, so long as you’re not doing it too much to the exclusion of what you need to be doing, whether you’re in the profession or law school, but make sure you’ve got some balance that’s meaningful to you. My intro kind of talked about me being grounded with my daughters, I try to spend as much time as I can with my girls just listening and being present with them. Because that’s what’s important to me, you need to know what those are, and you need to hold on to those.
David: And just to piggyback on that I couldn’t agree more, again, with what David’s saying, I as someone who spent eight years in big law, I can tell you about four to five of them were really good. It’s really a matter of who you are at that time and what you willing to do and what you want to do. And I can also tell you that if we had a mandatory billing per year of 2000, billable hours, we had a mandatory billing as well of 250 pro bono hours. And we received a slew of cases every week 50 to 100 that we could have picked from that were strictly public interest. I mean, I represented a client on a capital murder case, I’m a transactional attorney, I mean, I would have never had that opportunity. If I wasn’t in big law. I represent Holocaust survivors. At a clinic, there’s a lot of opportunities that are unique. And depending on how committed the big law firm is to pro bono work, you can get some really special opportunities that way as well.
Collin: I do hate to cut in because you do a fantastic job of doing my job and answering asking and answering questions on your own and telling fantastic stories. We are approaching the end here. So, I want to make sure we get one more question in and then and then I’ll take over and say some final words. So, if there’s one more question you saw in the chat, go ahead and hit it. Otherwise, we will we will start to wrap things up for today.
David: There was one question, so I was just real quick about kind of coming to law school older. I joke that I stopped. My Admissions Office stopped allowing me to travelled to speak to prospective students because among the things that I would say If prompted, or sometimes unsolicited is, I think the better law student on balance is somebody who’s been out for one or a couple of years, which is not to denigrate the vast majority of graduate of law students who graduate the prior May, I just think they come to law, you come to law school with a little bit of a better sense of purpose of a means to an end, probably have some work life balance and quality of life and a deeper appreciation for the meaning for that. And so, you’re able to kind of think about that with your eyes open. And so do not if you’re out there in the audience and thinking I may take a few years out or I’m older in college, and I’m thinking about law school. More kudos, more props to you, you’re gonna make it happen. You’re gonna be a terrific lawyer.
Arash: I agree with that completely. A fact that took three years off between college and law school. It helped helps you with that perspective. You see a lot of kids that go directly from college to law school, treat it like their fifth year of college, sixth year of college, seventh year of college, when it’s really professional school at this point. And it’s about working on your career and developing the skill set to become the person you want to be in life, as in a career socially, with your family across the board.
Collin: Wonderful. Well, thank you. David Jaffe, thank you, Arash Micailey, I appreciate both of your time and the roles you played for the last hour. I’m glad you could step back into your you know, your normal shoes, put on your normal hat and, and be yourselves for a little bit there and answer some great questions. There are still some questions that we weren’t able to get to we did cover a lot of ground though I want to rest everyone assured that we did hit most of these questions. If you do still have a question though you want answered either by an LSAC representative or by either Arash or David? Please feel free to email us and lawhubevents@LSAC.org. And we’ll pass that question along where appropriate, or we’ll answer it ourselves and get it back to you as soon as we possibly can. So please, make sure you do that. So today we covered an interesting topic, didn’t we, we covered some of the negative claims surrounding the legal profession and at times, that can be an awkward conversation to have. And it can be some awkward things to think about as you prepare for law school and hopefully your career in the law and the balance between optimism and making your future as a tough one, particularly in the face of such adversity and negativity as we discussed today. Now, there are some very real realities to contend with that Israel as we’ve talked about, right, emotional toil, Israel, as we talked about, and the time commitment, Israel. But what we can’t do is let hope substitute for evidence, and your future is really yours to write. But there’s something to knowing what you’re walking into and being armed to deal with it. So, take into account the advice that David and Arash have shared with you today, think about these misconceptions as misconceptions. But also try to take into account how you think them through and some of the thoughts that it brings to mind and how it impacts your particular case as you prepare for your law school application and your hopefully career in the law as well. So, we will be having another LawHub event coming up next month. This is the last one for this month, which is good, because the month ends in a couple days, we will be having another one coming up in November. So please make sure you check out your LawHub account and register for that event coming up in the second week of November. We’re really excited for it. And I do want to thank each and every one of you for staying with us today through this hour. I want to thank again our two presenters today Arash and David. If you have any questions, feel free to email us. I look forward to seeing you all again soon. Thank you and have a great day. Bye bye.