New Solo Law Practice = Malpractice?
Spring has arrived, meaning baseball season has started, and thousands of law students are graduating with no job prospects. Suddenly that weird guy who gave a lunchtime chat on going solo does not seem so weird.
At some schools, however, law students are conditioned to believe that going solo immediately out of law school is not only a bad idea, it is likely to result in malpractice. If you believe that, then you also believe that people who talk in class are the smartest people in law school.
Law is a general degree
Maybe you focused on taking criminal law classes, or got a concentration in business law. If you go into that area, those extra classes will be helpful. But you may not get into your preferred practice area immediately. Relax. Your critical thinking skills can be the most important skill you have. According to Rule 1.1: Competence, of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, “A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.”
Create a network
One great way to protect against malpractice is to network with more experienced attorneys in your practice area. Ask them if they are willing to help you out, and answer questions when necessary. Maybe they are even willing to share some of their briefs to get you started. You are still responsible for the client’s case, and you still have lots of work to do. But now you have a person, or persons to call when you have questions.
New lawyers research more
Once attorneys handle a few cases in their practice area, they spend less time researching case law. One reason lawyers try and stick to a practice area is because the more time you spend in that area, the more adept you become at handling the cases. You know the case law, you know the general pattern, and you become efficient.
When you handle a case outside your comfort zone, you research a ton. You find colleagues who know about the practice area. Unfamiliar territory is uncomfortable territory, and you prepare more then you usually do.
Bottom line–you can do it
You can handle going solo. Read the rules in your state, confer with colleagues, and research as much as you need to. Be diligent and meticulous with your cases, and you will realize you are capable of more then you think.