Civil Litigation: The Truth, The Whole Truth And Nothing But The Truth

Well, even the New York Times is reporting what a dismal choice law school tends to be for so many would be attorneys these days.  Read all about it here.

My favorite passage in this story is this quote from a jobless law school grad who owes 250k :

“It’s a prestige thing,” he says. “I’m an attorney. All of my friends see me as a person they look up to. They understand I’m in a lot of debt, but I’ve done something they feel they could never do and the respect and admiration is important.”

I had a root canal done yesterday and I really appreciated the roar of laughter that paragraph elicited from me.

I have written several posts in the hopes of giving people thinking of law school some idea of the debt ice berg they are probably sailing towards.   This is the start of a series to give some idea of what the practice of law tends to be in reality, rather than in theory as set forth in law schools. 

For those who wish to persist in becoming attorneys, and who are thinking of becoming civil litigators, the video at the beginning of this post is much closer to what you will spend most of your time doing than anything you will experience in moot court.  Oh, you will spend time in court:  endless status hearings and pre-trial conferences will eat up quite a bit of your time, along with motion hearings, often dealing with fairly petty aspects of the case. 

If you are  really lucky you may even get to go in front of a jury once or twice a year.  Then you hope that your litigation skills haven’t atrophied too much since you last had to use them.  (That is one reason why I still do some criminal defense work:  more frequent trials.)  I would estimate that for every hour I have spent in trial in a civil case, I have spent at least 100 hours dealing with the type of junk discovery referred to in the video. 

The vast majority of civil cases of course never go to trial but are settled.  An attorney can gain a reputation as an experienced litigator and see precious few trials that go to verdict in his career.  Something to contemplate for law students who, as I did when I was a law student,  find trial work enjoyable.  Criminal defense work tends to have more trials, but that area of practice has problems of its own which we will explore in a future post.