Graduating As a Lawyer

“I know we can’t abolish prejudice through laws, but we can set up guidelines for our actions by legislation.” – Belva Lockwood (American Attorney, 1830-1917)

No profession other than law has multiple variations for a ‘lawyer’. Titles Attorney, Lawyer, Barrister, Solicitor and Esquire are used, in the field of law. However, each title holds a unique responsibility than the others. An attorney or attorney-at-law is a qualified and licensed member of the legal profession, who may act on the client’s behalf and plead or defend a case in the court of law.

A lawyer is a trained professional who provides advice and aid on legal matters, in addition to performing tasks that of an attorney.

A barrister performs trial works in the higher courts and does not deal directly with clients.

A solicitor, speaks with the client, prepares documents and may appear as an advocate in the lower court.

An Esquire is an honorary title, similar to the use of Dr. or Ph.D. Today its’ usage is less frequent and when used it is prefixed by an attorney’s full name.

In the U.S. attorney and lawyer are considered synonyms. While in the U.K. barrister, solicitor and advocate are the popular variants used.

Each country on the globe offers study courses in the field of law. A Law degree allows its’ holder to practice in the court of law. In addition, joining a “bar association” is like a key for entering the kingdom of law. An individual without any legal training can be an attorney-in-fact, but to be a lawyer, bar exam needs to be taken. It provides both license (educational evaluation) and certificate (character and fitness evaluation) to practice law.

In the U.S., formal requirements to become a lawyer requires a 4 year college degree, 3 years of law school and passing a written bar examination. However, requirements may vary by State.

The legal system of Florida includes state judiciary, courts (State and Federal) and the Florida Bar Association. Both Federal and State laws govern the outcome of a legal proceeding. The court system, an individual enters depends on factors like the amount of damage involved, location of the parties involved and whether a court has exclusive jurisdiction over the subject matter.

For an attorney to practice law in this state, he has to be licensed from the Florida bar association. This reflects:

– An attorney has been subjected to ethical rules.
– Is required to take continuing education courses to maintain his license.
– Is required to maintain the confidential of the clients.
– Is professionally accountable to any authority. If found guilty by the bar, they can loose their license to practice.
– Maintains’ a Clients’ Security Fund intended to reimburse clients in case a lawyer misappropriates trust funds.

In, 2008 The Florida Bar Association, The Florida Bar Foundation, Florida Legal Services, The Real Property Probate and Trust Law section joined hands to fight back against the ‘foreclosure’ crisis that made Florida notorious in the nation. The statewide effort is called “Florida Attorney Saving Homes”.

According to a survey, most searched cities for Florida Attorneys are Boca Raton, Clearwater, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Melbourne, Miami, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Tallahassee, Tamp and West Palm Beach.

It is imperative for an individual seeking a lawyer to have a background check done. An important step in evaluating whether an attorney is legible for handling legal proceedings or not.

Drive: Tapping Into Lawyers’ Intrinsic Motivation

Daniel H. Pink’s 2009 book entitled “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” (“Drive”) is filled with information that is highly relevant to the legal profession today.

The central thrust of Drive is that motivating professionals like lawyers requires law firms to go beyond the traditional use of sticks and carrots, punishments and rewards. Pink argues that instead of focusing on these external motivators, what law firms need to do is tap into the intrinsic motivational drive of their lawyers. This will result in more engaging and ultimately more satisfying work. Pink argues that this will not only reduce lawyer turnover and burnout, but that it is in fact the secret to high performance.

Pink highlights three key aspects of work that make it more inherently satisfying: (i) autonomy; (ii) mastery; and (iii) purpose. He argues that these components of intrinsic motivation are interdependent and mutually reinforcing – that, like the legs of a tripod, the apparatus of excellence cannot stand without each component in place.

If there is any merit to Pink’s argument, then law firms would be well advised to pay careful attention to each of the three components of intrinsic motivation in their human resource strategies. Here are some ideas on how to do so:

(i) Autonomy: There are five main ways firms can increase their lawyers’ overall sense of autonomy. These include giving lawyers greater leeway over: (i) what to work on (subject autonomy); (ii) when to do their work (time autonomy); (iii) where to do their work (place autonomy); (iv) who to do their work with (team autonomy); and (v) how to do their work (technique autonomy). The idea here is not that firms have to grant their lawyers full autonomy over all aspects of their work. It is simply that law firms have at their disposal five separate channels along which to promote greater lawyer autonomy, and that an increase in autonomy along any one of these five channels will result in a higher level of work satisfaction.

(ii) Mastery: Law firms can promote lawyer mastery by aligning the difficulty of certain tasks with their lawyers’ overall level of skill or development. Pink calls these “Goldilocks tasks” – tasks that are neither too hard nor too difficult. The idea is that in order to develop mastery it is important for lawyers to be engaged; and in order to be engaged they must be presented with challenges that are well suited to their skill level. Tasks that are too challenging result in a sense of being overwhelmed; tasks that are too easy result in boredom; tasks that are neither too hard nor too easy, but “just right” result in engagement. Engagement, in turn, leads to mastery. Law firms that care about developing masterful lawyers should ensure that they are neither overwhelmed nor bored – that overall they are engaged by their work. If firms are able to strike this balance, their lawyers’ work becomes its own reward.

(iii) Purpose: To make their lawyers’ work more satisfying, law firms would also do well to consider increasing the emphasis they place on meaningful, not just profitable, work – that is, work that gives their lawyers a sense that they are making a positive contribution to something greater than themselves. This does not mean rejecting profit as a motive; it simply means making greater room for non-profit driven contributions. This might mean crafting a mission or vision statement that espouses genuine non-profit related values, and ensuring that incoming lawyers share those values. It might also mean placing greater emphasis on pro bono work, and perhaps including it as part of performance reviews. It might even mean hiring professional coaches to work with their lawyers. Whatever the approach, taking steps to instill a greater sense of purpose into the work life of many lawyers will ultimately make them more committed, creative, resourceful, and yes: satisfied.

It is no secret that lawyers are, in general, a notoriously unhappy lot. It is also clear that lawyers are the most important resource of any law firm. Firms that value this resource would be well advised to take seriously the ideas put forth in Drive. In the end, when lawyers are satisfied with their work, everyone stands to win – not just the lawyers themselves, but their colleagues, their firms, and most importantly their clients.

Things to Consider When Hiring a Family Law Lawyer

A family law lawyer specializes in matters relating to issues that surround the family. These can include marriage, divorce, child support, spousal alimony, guardianship, adoption, domestic violence and child abuse.

Choosing a family law lawyer is an important decision, especially when dealing with child abuse and domestic violence. These legal issues are highly-charged events that require attorneys who are well-versed in domestic relations law and child advocacy.

Divorce can also be an emotionally-volatile arena that requires lawyers who can help both parties work through their differences while obtaining a fair settlement. When children are involved it is important to work with attorneys who will fight for the rights of minor children to ensure adequate child support is provided.

Issues related to family law often require clients to work closely with their chosen lawyer. It is best to determine what qualities you prefer before interviewing attorneys. Do you prefer a male or female lawyer? Do you require an aggressive attorney or one who remains calm? Do you need a lawyer with years of experience of would a recent law school graduate suffice?

It can be helpful to create a list of questions, concerns, and the desired outcome. Organize all records pertaining to the legal issue. For example, divorce lawyers will require financial records, real estate deeds, automobile titles, current and previous years’ tax returns, and information surrounding minor children.

It can be beneficial to interview three or more attorneys to determine which is best suited for your needs. Most law firms offer gratis meet-and-greet consultations while others assess a minimal fee. When arranging appointments inquire about initial consultation fees and what documents should be brought to the meeting.

During the meeting it is important to determine cost estimates. Family law lawyers normally require clients to provide an upfront retainer. This typically ranges between 25- and 50-percent of expected costs.

Legal fees are usually assessed at an hourly rate, but some cases are charged as a flat fee. Cases requiring extensive research and court appearances are typically billed hourly. Cases involving minimal work, such as a legal name change, are billed at a flat rate.

Law firms also assess backend fees to cover the cost of phone consultations, court filing fees, copying and faxing documents, and postage fees. Some attorneys deduct these costs from the retainer, while others remit monthly invoices.

The majority of family law lawyers require payment at the time services are rendered. However, some will allow clients to develop a payment plan. It is important to determine payment schedules to ensure you can comply. When payment plans are allowed, it is smart to obtain the plan in writing so that all parties understand payment amounts and due dates.

Individuals who require services from a family law lawyer, but cannot afford legal fees may qualify for pro bono services. Much depends on earned income and circumstances surrounding the case.

If possible, obtain family law lawyer referrals from family or friends. This can minimize time spent searching for or consulting with attorneys. Those unable to obtain referrals can utilize the Internet or telephone directories to locate law firms.

Another source for locating reputable attorneys is the American Bar Association website at abanet.org. The ABA does not offer recommendations, but instead publish a list of nationwide family law lawyers who are in good standing with the organization.