As yet another school year starts, law schools would do well to remember what they do. And to know what a law school does, you have to know what lawyers do.
Of course, lawyers do many things. They serve as justices, judges, magistrates, referees, arbitrators, mediators, case evaluators, and negotiators, all to resolve disputes. They serve as attorneys general, solicitors general, judge advocates general, district attorneys, prosecutors, public defenders, military lawyers, county counsel, agency counsel, and municipal lawyers, all related to government work. They serve as plaintiff’s lawyers, trial lawyers, litigators, insurance-defense counsel, public-interest lawyers, family lawyers, divorce lawyers, probate counsel, guardian ad litem, trustee, and conservator, all trying civil disputes.
Lawyers also serve as chief legal officer, general counsel, senior counsel, associate counsel, corporate counsel, in-house counsel, and retained counsel, all doing corporate work. They serve as estate planners, business planners, bond lawyers, tax lawyers, patent lawyers, labor lawyers, entertainment lawyers, and sports lawyers, all doing transactional work.
Lawyers also serve as presidents, governors, legislators, chiefs of staff, lobbyists, policymakers, board chairs, chief executive officers, chief operating officers, business owners, financial advisors, real estate agents, securities brokers, title company officers, nonprofit executive directors, university presidents, law professors, business professors, and sports agents, general managers, managers, and coaches. And they serve in many other ways.
Yet at root, what all lawyers do is try to make the world work. What all lawyers have in common is the will and skill to improve our common lot.
Lawyers try to make governments, families, corporations, businesses, and charities work better. They try to make communities, highways, workplaces, products, healthcare, and even military engagements safer. They try to make promises, warranties, advertising, markets, franchises, and securities more reliable. They try to finance roads, hospitals, arenas, stadiums, and schools more efficiently and equitably.
Above all, lawyers advocate, counsel, coax, guide, caution, warn, persuade, and cajole individuals into making wiser, sounder, fitter, and more sustainable and moral decisions. And when they fail in their counsel, they often invoke government authority to make persons do as they should.
As another school year starts, now is a great time to remember what a law school does. Law schools help law students prepare to make the world work better. Let’s all of us who make a law school including students, professors, administrators, staff, alumni, supervisors, and mentors, do our best again this school year. Now is a great time to be a lawyer.
Blog author Nelson Miller is the Associate Dean and Professor at WMU-Cooley’s Grand Rapids campus. He practiced civil litigation for 16 years before joining the WMU-Cooley faculty. He has argued cases before the Michigan Supreme Court, Michigan Court of Appeals, and United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and filed amicus and party briefs in the United States Supreme Court. He has has many published books, casebooks, book chapters, book reviews, and articles on legal education, law practice, torts, civil procedure, professional responsibility, damages, international law, constitutional law, university law, bioethics, and law history and philosophy. He also is now teaching law classes on the Kalamazoo, Michigan campus of Western Michigan University.