Instructor: Dawn Schock has practiced law in Los Angeles, California for over 30 years. She spent nearly two decades as an associate and then partner in a top-rated, 70-lawyer law firm, before opening a solo practice. Three years ago she and a partner formed SK Appellate Group, LLP, a virtual law firm specializing in civil appeals. She has also served as a professional mediator and arbitrator. Her peers have awarded her their highest (5) Martindale Hubbell rating. Ms. Schock taught a clinical skills course at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles for six years and has taught and consulted at law schools and lawyer training programs in Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kosovo. She has formally mentored young women lawyers in Tunisia and Afghanistan.
Time: Class will meet from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. each day with a lunch break and short mid- morning and mid-afternoon breaks.
Materials and Assignments: The instructor will provide assigned materials. Students will be required to participate in class discussions and interactive exercises. A limited number of assignments will be given that will require preparation in advance of class. An effort will be made to introduce students to the local practice of law in Riyadh either through guest speaker(s) and/or a site visit to a law firm.
Introduction to Law Practice Management. We will discuss the differences between the roles and expectations of the law student and the beginning lawyer. We will particularly focus on identifying the attributes and practical skills needed to succeed as a lawyer and on realistic strategies for developing those. Each participant will be encouraged to privately assess his/her strengths and weaknesses with regard to each skill as a baseline against which to chart personal progress over the course of the week.
Active learning component: Students will write and share a description of where they hope to see themselves in their legal careers five years from now.
Good Ethics = Good Business. For the lawyer, efficient law office management means more than just good business practices. Office procedures must also ensure that the lawyer meets her ethical obligations to her clients. Every office that delivers legal services to a client must utilize uniform, comprehensive, and well-designed procedures to ensure the client’s business is conducted in a timely, confidential, and competent manner, and that the lawyer can accurately account for the time and effort exerted on the matter. An understanding of this important nexus between law office operations and ethics is vital even for the lawyer that is joining a firm with existing procedures. This segment provides an overview of best practices in a law office’s critical operations and explores how they are designed to support the lawyers’ ethical representation of the client: case in-take, filing, calendaring, time-keeping, billing, and collections.
Active learning component: Students will be provided a written exercise that highlights common ethical breaches in the handling of client matters. The class will discuss office procedures that could have prevented the breaches.
Developing good personal time-management and organizational habits. In addition to good office procedures as discussed during Day One, each lawyer must develop his own personal procedures for handling client cases or other projects. This is particularly important as the young lawyer becomes busier with multiple demands on his time. This segment will discuss fundamentals and tips for effective time management and organization.
Active learning component: Small groups of students will complete a time-management exercise that emphasizes the strategic prioritization of tasks.
Interpersonal Skills #1: Effective Listening. The practice of law demands that the lawyer interact with other people—clients, judges, senior law partners, other law associates, subordinate law firm staff, witnesses, and victims. Often these interactions occur under stressful circumstances. A wide array of interpersonal skills, therefore, are among the lawyer’s most important tools. We will explore a number of these skills during the course, beginning with active listening. From your first assignment from a senior lawyer in your firm to your first instructions from the judge in your case, you will need good listening skills in all aspects of your practice.
Active learning component: Students will be given a role-playing exercise to highlight the importance of effective listening.
Interpersonal Skills #2: Effective Questioning. The art of asking questions is an essential part of effective communication, particularly for the lawyer who must gain an understanding of a client’s case or a senior partner’s research assignment. In addition to the effective listening skills covered in the prior class, both the type and manner of asking a question are critical to effective communication and will be outlined and discussed during this class.
Active learning component: Students will engage in client-interviewing role plays, which will be provided by the instructor.
Interpersonal Skills #3: Assertive Communication. Often young lawyers are reluctant to ask questions of or offer opinions to more senior lawyers because they are concerned they may appear to lack knowledge they should have or, quite simply, because they are shy. An inability to politely assert yourself when it is necessary can hinder your effectiveness as a lawyer. We will discuss and practice assertive communication techniques.
Active learning component: Students will complete and discuss written exercises that have them focus on their strengths and develop strategies to address their weaknesses with respect to assertive communication.
Interpersonal Skills #4: Receiving and Giving Constructive Feedback and/or Bad News. The young lawyer’s development depends upon learning from more experienced practitioners. Additionally, the young lawyer may depend on other members of her team—assistants, paralegals or other associates—to complete her work. Inevitably, a lawyer must deliver bad news to a client or employee. The ability to receive and give constructive criticism or bad news is never easy, but it is critical to the lawyer’s development and performance.
Active learning component: The students will be provided role plays and asked to develop their own language for giving and receiving constructive criticism.
The Importance of Mentoring. Studies indicate that young lawyers who develop a relationship with a supportive mentor enjoy greater career success. The benefits of and strategies for establishing and utilizing relationships with mentors will be explored.
Active learning component: Students will be provided mentoring role play exercises.
The Importance of Networking. While not all new lawyers immediately play a role in getting business for their law firms, very often the relationships we establish as a law students, interns, or young lawyers later supply clients through referrals or other methods. Even the new lawyer, therefore, should begin thinking about networking in a formal way. This class session will explore methods for developing and staying in contact with your professional network.
Active learning component: Students will write and deliver a short “elevator speech” that summarizes their professional expertise and goals.
Team Work. The course will conclude with a discussion of the benefits of working as a member of a team and techniques for viewing and engaging members of your firm or law department and of this class as teammates.
Active learning component: Students will re-assess their strengths and weaknesses on the skills identified and assessed during the first class session.