Practice Management Literacy: What They Don’t Teach You in Law School

Tom Mighell made an impassioned case  last night at the Ignite Law 2010 conference for better practice management instruction at law schools, and it strikes me that the topic has particular resonance now that the structure of the profession and the underlying business models are undergoing fundamental changes.

Given the scarcity of jobs at established firms and the related rise of  solo, networked & virtual gigs, young lawyers need to be prepared to make their own way as soon as they get their diploma. Even young associates at traditional firms, who couldn’t count on mentoring even in the best of times, cannot now expect to learn about the complexities and implications of alternative fee arrangements when the partners are grappling with the issue themselves.

While practice management education was not its focus, a recent post by David Koller on the Small Firm Business blog makes the point clearly that the “business” of law is a glaring gap in legal education. Koller’s is a great first person entrepreneurial success story, but it demonstrates the signifcant challenges lawyers face if they do not have a grounding in marketing, cash flow planning, accounting and all the other hidden joys of running a law firm profitably.

While some commentators on the #ignitelaw Twitter thread seemed to fret that law schools might need to be lobbied/pressured into incorporating practice management into the curriculum, it seems to me like a tremendous opportunity for entrepreneurial and innovative law schools to further differentiate themselves and attract top candidates.

How better to enhance a school’s job placement story than with a strong platform for supporting and encouraging your graduates’ entrepreneurialism?

Of course, that’s going to take a while. In the meantime, there’s great info for autodidacts on sites like Jeff Krause’s Practice Management Blog.


  1. Interesting post: practice management, indeed management generally, is often a skill that’s not picked up formally in a lawyer’s training. Sure, many of the bigger commercial firms run courses, or send their mid-qualified lawyers on external courses, but plenty of people fall through the net (miss training due to client commitments, move firms, have training budgets slashed to cut costs) to say nothing of those firms that don’t have the money or inclination to educate their people on management skills.

    One trend we see in the Uk is the growth of practice management positions (often non-lawyers) who are taking on team management roles by practice area or vertical focus group, essentially taking the people and financial management responsibilities away from the partners. There are pros and cons of this approach, but certainly giving all lawyers a baseline of management knowledge early in their careers would be helpful.

    I wrote about this type of issue and the changes needed to legal training here:

Speak Your Mind