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mad

Here are mine, though they have more to do with the process by which lawyers are made than with the practice of law itself:

1. Make it harder for people to go to law school just because they don't know what to do with themselves. One way to do this might be to add an essay to the LSAT on a simple but subjective topic such as "what will you do with a law degree?" "who is the living or dead lawyer or judge you admire most and why?" or "why do you want to go to law school." Perhaps this will reduce the number of law students who seem truly miserable to be studying the law, which might then increase the number of actual lawyers who are doing something they truly want to do.

2. Require students to spend either the second semester of 2L year or first semester of 3L year in a full-time internship with a legal non-profit, a judge, a prosecutor's or public defender's office, or a legal services clinic. I believe that requiring this type of experience will ensure that students who choose BIGLAW or BIGCORPORATION have been exposed to the alternative, will provide ALL students with some type of practical legal experience before they venture out into the profession, will give back to the profession in measurable ways, and hopefully will foster a stronger culture of commitment to pro bono work and legal services.

3. One of the biggest changes I believe needs to happen will be very difficult to effectuate. I think that the increased billables requirement - and its chicken-egg counterparts of higher salaries and higher hourly rates and intensified client demands - at large firms is responsible for much misery among young lawyers, much angst among law students, and much resentment among clients and the general non-lawyering public. To change this, though, lawyers will have to accept lower salaries and smaller profits-per-partner in exchange for having their lives back. Lawyers in many other countries (Sherry's Kiwi commenter is an example) demonstrate that it is possible to live a financially rewarding and professionally satisfying life as a private, large-firm lawyer without sacrificing one's every waking moment to The Firm, but that one shouldn't expect to have a life outside the office and still be paid an astronomical salary.

4. Somewhat as a corollary to # 3, law school tuition needs to be reigned in, scholarships, work-study jobs, and other funding opportunities should be far more widely available (sort of like they are in many graduate programs), and loan forgiveness programs should be expanded to include those taking government jobs (which often pay more than the salary ceilings of most current programs but still too little to make them feasible to grads with six-figure debt burdens). Law school debt is a huge reason why so many students go the BIGLAW route though they'd rather be prosecuting, public defending, legal-servicing, working for small local firms, or doing some other rewarding but non-lucrative type of work.

5. Change the state and federal rules of procedure, both civil and criminal, to permit sanctions for a**holishness. That is, allow the judge to impose monetary sanctions, sua sponte or upon another party's motion, on lawyers who sandbag, stonewall, hide the ball, throw their weight around, or otherwise persistently behave like complete jerks. Firms should similarly institute programs for punishing partners and senior associates who behave this way to their underlings and rewarding those who take time to show baby lawyers the ropes and teach them how to practice aggressively and effectively while remaining kind and civil. Ah, Utopia.

Coyote

The LSAT isn't designed, not should it be, to weed out folks who won't be happy in the profession. I'm sure there are plenty of lawyers who didn't know what else to do with themselves before law scool who went on to rewarding and fulfilling careers as attorneys. Likewise, I'm sure there are plenty of lawyers who seemed well suited for the profession and had grand ideas and such who are now just as miserable as the other folks who had no such greater intentions.

SF Lawyer-Librarian

Love the suggestion that law firms publish their divorce rate! After practicing for five years, I left practice to obtain a Master's in Library Science and become a law librarian. I watched a lot of friends' marriages implode during my five years, and it's one of the reasons why I left practice. I still wince when I hear about yet another divorce (or affair) among my former colleagues.

As others have mentioned, it's time for firms to do something about billable hour pressures. I worked in-house for a year while I was deciding what to do next with my life. I made far less than I did at a big firm, but it was worth the lower salary just to be free from the looming burden of billable hours. I think I provided better service to my clients, too.

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