Wednesday, May 6, 2015

YLD President's Message: The Practice of Law - Learning to Act like a Lawyer

By Anthony "Nino" Martino

According to about half the attorneys who responded to a Florida Bar survey in 2013, the most serious problem facing the legal profession today is too many lawyers. Objectively, since 2000, the number of law schools in Florida almost doubled with the addition of five new law schools. Not surprisingly, the number of lawyers in this state increased by more than 50 percent. By comparison, in 1980, the state had only 27,000 lawyers, approximately a quarter of the amount today. 

A natural consequence of the increased competition is a decrease in available work and, thus, the opportunities to develop as a young lawyer. It is the practice of law, as opposed to only knowledge of it, that will prove vital to your development in the profession. I think this concept was well explained by Alasdair MacIntyre, who defined practice as involving a “coherent and complex form of socially established cooperative human activity.” This requirement, MacIntyre observes, distinguishes planting turnips from farming. Said another way, it is not enough to think like a lawyer, you must learn to act like one. 

The practice of law can only be achieved through clinical experience. In addition to seeking out mentors, young lawyers need to seek out the experiences necessary in their particular field. “Perhaps the most fundamental legal skill consists of determining what kind of legal problems a situation may involve, a skill that necessarily transcends any particular specialized knowledge.” Comment to Fla. Bar Rule 4-1.1. Perfecting your craft requires exposure to “lawyering” done in trials, hearings, client meetings, negotiations, and depositions. If you are not being provided these opportunities, then you must seek them out elsewhere. Experiential education is necessary to develop the ability to understand a concept on a level that you can then anticipate and apply to new situations.  

In an attempt to broaden the experiences available to young lawyers, the YLD offers a number of programs designed to increase such exposure. Through the YLD, you can participate in our Judicial Shadowing program, where feedback is received directly from the bench; attend the State Court Trial Seminar on June 12, where established litigators take you from trial preparation through closing arguments; or volunteer for structured and supervised pro bono, where you can develop or enhance skills such as negotiating (with your client and with opposing counsel), drafting pleadings, handling discovery, arguing motions, representing clients at trial, learning about new courts, and writing briefs. 

Recent & Upcoming YLD Events

The State Court Trial Seminar will be June 12 from 1 to 5 p.m. at the George E. Edgecomb Courthouse, 6th Floor, Courtroom 1 (4.0 CLE Credits).

For more information on the YLD’s activities, check out our Facebook page