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American Bar Association

Just When I Thought My Book Was Finished . . .

Everyone who knows me or follows me on Twitter knows I’ve been writing up a storm this year. I did a revision of my self-published ebook The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to get Sued, Fired, Arrested, or Killed and published Flash Mob Law: The Legal Side of Planning and Participating in Pillow Fights, No Pants Rides, and Other Shenanigans through the American Bar Association (ABA). (I’ve got to get shorter subtitles.) I finished the first draft of the manuscript for The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers in August and I thought the majority of my book writing obligations were done for the year. I was wrong.

Editing a Paper by Nic McPhee from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Editing a Paper by Nic McPhee from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

My book is being published by the Law Practice (LP) section of the ABA. (For you non-lawyers, this is the section that’s all about how to run a law firm more effectively.) When you write for them, you get a team of people who work on your book. Here’s a glimpse of who I’m working with:

  • Shawn my project manager
  • Evan and Dennis my peer reviewers (who make sure everything I wrote is legally sound)
  • Tom the head of the LP publishing department (who makes himself read everything before it gets published)
  • The copywriter (who will fix all my bad grammar)
  • The marketing team who is charge of my cover and promotions

I got to see a lot of my team at the recent LP fall meeting in Phoenix. When I turned my manuscript over to them, I thought I was basically done except of approving my cover art and proofreading edits. The team loves my book and said it’s a great first draft, but they’ve asked for a re-write which might include a re-arrangement of chapters, a new forward, and changing the forward into an afterword. I appreciated the feedback and I’m all for putting out the best book possible, but it’s going to be a challenge timewise.

The LP section wants my book done and published by the ABA TechShow in March 2014. I responded that I’m meeting Gary Vaynerchuk in person when he does his book signing for his new book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook in Arizona in December and I promised him a paper copy. (Yes, I’m fully aware and embrace the fact that I have a massive professional hard-on for Gary Vaynerchuk.)

My mug from the Space Age Cafe in Gila Bend

My mug from the Space Age Cafe in Gila Bend

My calendar is pretty full for the rest of October and November that I’m at the point where I have to think hard before agreeing to go to any events or activities that aren’t already on my schedule. And now I need to figure out how I’m going to do a re-write by Halloween on top of all that so it can get through peer-review, copy editing, and get a galley printed and shipped to me by December 5th.

This is going to be fun . . . and by fun, I mean high-caffeinated. 😉

I had a chance to speak with Tom at the LP fall meeting. He said he really liked that my first draft was easy to read and then he asked if I had more books in me. That was a very flattering statement coming from him, but at the same time my first thought was to punch him in the face. After working on three books this year, I’m going to need a break from book writing once this book is done before I start thinking about the next one.

Lawyers’ Bad Reputations Start with Arrogant Law Students

In every industry, there appear to be some people who cling to the old school ways and others who fully embrace innovation. Apparently in publishing, there is animosity between writers whose work is published by the Big Publishing Houses and writers who self-publish.  Allegedly some people who are represented by Big Publishing claim that people who are self-published do not qualify as authors because they didn’t go through the same process to publish their work. In the big picture, it doesn’t matter. All writers have the desire to communicate their work and have to work hard to cultivate a following — let alone put the words on the page.

Gavel | Andrew F. Scott: P6033675

Image by afsart via Flickr

In the Arizona legal community, one source of animosity is the law school from which one matriculated. Until recently, Arizona had only two law schools: Arizona State University (ASU) and the University of Arizona (UofA). There is an ongoing rivalry between these school based on who is ranked higher. In 2004, a new law school entered the scene: Phoenix School of Law (PSL). This school is accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA); however it is not ranked in the top 100 law schools by the U.S. News. PSL has the reputation of being the school that people go to when they couldn’t get into ASU or UofA and that students hope to perform well enough during their 1L year so they can transfer to a better school.

I was not prepared for the hostility that some people have towards PSL graduates. Earlier this summer, an article was released that stated that 1/3 of 2010 law school graduates have jobs that do not require passing a bar exam. The responses from two of my classmates were appalling.

  • “This is why I hate…… PSL kids….. yes I’m going public with this comment and I don’t G.A.F.  If you want to be a lawyer, go to a real school and stop saturating the saturated market.  Was that too harsh? Whatever, I know everyone is thinking it.”
  • “I agree.  And the ABA could have a huge role to play by making law school accreditation more difficult. The problem is that there is a consent decree with the FTC which means that the ABA can’t refuse accreditation to more law schools or cut off accreditation to make fewer lawyers because it would be “anti-competitive.”  The problem now, of course, is that there’s too much competition and too many bottom-feeding, hungry lawyers.”

These comments were made by two people who had not yet taken the bar when they made these statements. My response: Who are they to judge? We all took the LSAT, got into a law school, passed our classes, and graduated. Everyone who passes a bar exam has the right to be a lawyer if they chose to be (and can find work), regardless of the road they took to get there.

These comments show the immaturity, insecurity, and enormity of their egos. During my 1L orientation, the then-dean of the law school encouraged us not to tell lawyer jokes because it perpetuated the image of the legal profession as being full of soulless, greedy, and unscrupulous ladder climbers. Unfortunately, this reputation is still earned by many lawyers now coming out of the gate.

My friend, Eric Mayer, is a brilliant criminal defense lawyer who says, “Good lawyers are not made by their law schools.” Law school is just the beginning of a legal career. A lawyer’s reputation should not be based on where they went to law school, but rather on their intelligence, competence, and ethics. I surprised an ASU law professor this week when I told her that I did not care about the future reputation of my law school because the body of my work will be more determinative of whether I’m a good lawyer.

If the legal profession wants to change its reputation, it should try to screen out these arrogant people when they apply to law school and continuously foster the idea that there’s a place for all types of people to be lawyers. More realistically, I suppose, schools should integrate elitist conversations into their classrooms and truly take the time to debate students who repeatedly demonstrate this type of arrogance. I hope comments like those enumerated by my classmates are not the norm for my class, my school, or the legal profession, but I have my doubts.

Having a different educational background does not make a person a bad lawyer. It just makes them different, and it’s this diversification that permits the profession to grow and remain relevant. Just as self-published writers may be looked down upon as being less credible, it is those who take a different path that are now spearheading certain areas of the industry. If you have a hang up about a person’s legal education, hire someone else.

Nominate Me for the ABA’s Top 100 Law Blawgs

The American Bar Association (ABA) is soliciting nominations for its 2011 list of Top 100 Law Blawgs.  It would be an honor if UndeniableRuth.com was on this list.

During the last 20 months, I have written about a variety of legal topics:

The ABA has a rule that you cannot nominate yourself, a blog you have written for, or your company’s blog, so I can’t sit on my computer all day nominating myself.  I need your help to make this happen.  Also, the ABA doesn’t want to receive nominations from spouses, which I think they’ll probably extend to anyone the ABA thinks is a family member who is not otherwise employed in the legal profession (sorry Mom).  The nomination page can be found here.

Nominations will be accepted through September 9, 2011.

You are not limited to only nominating one legal blog.  Along with this blog, please consider nominating Above the Law, Military Underdog, and Legal Blog Watch.

Law School: If I could do it again . . .

Today is my graduation day from law school. I’ve been reflecting all week about my law school experience . . . when I haven’t been running around like a crazy person taking care of everything that I’ve put off during the semester but have to get done before BarBri starts next week. It’s been fun to remember the person I was when I started this adventure three years ago compared to who I am today.

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Green

So the big question is, if I had to do it all again, knowing what I know now, would I have gone to law school? Absolutely! I went to law school because I was told it was the best education a person can get, regardless of whether they become a lawyer. That statement is still true. If I could do it all over again, I’d still go to law school, but I’d do it a little differently . . .

I would have skipped more classes. The American Bar Association permits students to miss up to 10% of every course. I should have taken full advantage of that. There were so many opportunities for law students to attend workshops and conferences; however I felt that I couldn’t attend them because it was drilled into my head that missing class would result in me not learning the material. While I believe that going to class is important, some things are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that are worth occasionally missing class.

I would have published more papers. I’m graduating from law school as a co-author of a book chapter about government regulation of emerging technologies; however I have close to final drafts of papers on the legalities of organizing flash mobs, the legal side of blogging, and the legalities of GPS technology. They are all on my back burner of projects that I’ll get to when I have time. It would have been nice to have submitted at least one of them for publication in a legal journal.

I would have networked more. I have tried to seek out my fellow geeks in the legal community and people who have been successful following their passions. I am glad to have been bold enough to reach out to some wonderful people during my law school career and develop some great relationships. I wish I had had the time and energy to do more of it.

I would have started Sponsor A Law Kid sooner. I wish I had thought of Sponsor A Law Kid when I first started this blog. This campaign has paid for approximately 1/3 of my tuition during my final semester of law school and it has provided the opportunity to meet some wonderful people and businesses. It would have been amazing if I had been able to use this to fund my entire education.

I never would have looked at my grades. I went into law school like everyone else, thinking that you have to be in the top 25% to be successful. It made me focus too much on grades and not enough of learning the materials. Once I figured out that grades are meaningless, I stopped looking at them. I switched my focus to learning the law, and I became so much happier and learned so much more. I was more creative, efficient, and relaxed. I have not seen my grades since my first semester of law school, and I’ve been told that my GPA has gone up every semester since. Being in the top 25% is a requirement for some people’s professional dreams, just not mine.

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Sponsor A Law Kid – Update – Nov. 24, 2010

I launched Sponsor A Law Kid a little over a week ago.  I was surprised by how much traffic my blog has had over the past week.  The ABA and Above The Law wrote articles about #SALK which literally brought thousands of people to my blog.

At first a lot of the comments were very critical, angry, and downright nasty.  I was shocked by the hatefulness of some people’s comments.  I figured if a person didn’t think #SALK was a good idea, that they simply wouldn’t sponsor a day and that would be the end of it.  I’m not sure that everyone understood that people who sponsor a day get a blog dedicated to the person, company, or cause of their choice.  Some of the comments gave the impression that I was simply asking for money and offering nothing in return.  I am very grateful to my supportive friends and the commenters who followed the angry comments with their support and encouragement.

To date, I have sponsorship for 20 days.  I was very humbled that two families have sponsored days to bring attention to rare illnesses that their children have and organizations that support the families who are coping with these illnesses.

I was especially touched by a lawyer from Cleveland.  He saw the article about #SALK on Above the Law and he came here for more information.  He had no intention of sponsoring a day, but when he saw “the unwarranted insults and anger” towards me in the comments, he was inspired to purchase my most expensive day.  I am still in awe over his generosity.

I hope I can continue to use #SALK to bring attention to special people, companies, and causes.  If you would like to sponsor a day, please contact me at SponsorALawKid@gmail.com.

Twitter – The Untapped Resource for Law Students

I joined Twitter about 16 months ago.  I originally joined to keep in touch with my friends while I was in Missouri with the U.S. Army JAG last summer.  Since then, it has become one of my primary networking tools.  It is the easiest way I know to start a conversation with someone.  I’m surprised by how few students at my law school are using it.

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A few months ago, Twitter helped me break the ice with Sam Glover when he spoke at my school.  Recently, it helped me create a connection with Tim Eigo and Arizona Attorney Magazine.  I don’t know how he found me, but he started following me in August and said that he liked this blog.  I went on LinkedIn and the Arizona Bar Association website to confirm his identity and then started a conversation with him.  That led to a lunch and hopefully this is the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship.

Twitter has given me the ability to connect with a vast number of people, entities, and information that I otherwise would not have the time to seek out on my own.  It is the main way that I keep up with developments in the legal profession.  It also helps me stay informed about what my friends, local businesses, and celebrities are doing.

Online Best Colleges.com and Rasmussen College published their lists for the Top 100 Legal Twitter Feeds.  These are all wonderful people to follow.  Like them, I also want to acknowledge some of my favorite legal people and entities on Twitter who consistently post informative and entertaining content.

I also want to give props to Erin Biencourt, a 2L at Arizona State University, who is new to Twitter.  She claims that she needs me to give her Twitter lessons because she’s still figuring out how retweets and replies work.  She’s doing better than she realizes because she’s already overcome the biggest hurdle just by becoming part of the conversation.

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