What is a attorney

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I would like to know what exactly is a lawyer and/or attorney is and what the difference is if there is one between both of them? What exactle do they do @ work, and are there different branches of that occupation?

-- Anonymous, May 15, 2000


You've gotta be kidding...or 10 years old. I suggest a visit to the library.

-- Anonymous, May 15, 2000

Even if she is stupid or 10, there is no need to be rude. It doesn't sound like a question designed to irritate, so calm down.

-- Anonymous, May 15, 2000

I'm an intelligent 23-year-old person, and to be quite honest, *I'm* not really clear about what attorneys do at work. I mean, I have some vague idea that they write briefs, see clients, and maybe go to court sometimes, but beyond that I'm clueless.

-- Anonymous, May 15, 2000

Dear Ashlieghy,

If you want to understand what a lawyer is, and what they do at work, I suggest you start watching Ally MacBeal on a regular basis. That show is practically a documentary for the legal community.


Kristin Thomas


-- Anonymous, May 15, 2000

I'll be posting this info, along with the difference between doctors and physicians, ministers and pastors, etc.

-- Anonymous, May 15, 2000

We do very different things, although almost all attorneys spend most of their time at their desks doing paperwork of one sort or another. I am a commercial litigator (meaning that I handle disputes of a commercial nature, and not, for example, criminal, personal injury or patent work), working for a private law firm in NYC that primarily does mergers and acquisitions for privately held venture capital funds.

Most of the cases that I handle arise from a deal for the purchase and sale of a company going sour -- sometimes before the sale occurs, sometimes after. I am most frequently in arbitration or one of the New York courts.

I also get involved from time to time in attempts to prevent a particular buyer from acquiring a company -- whether thwarting a hostile takeover, defending one, or attempting to hold off a friendly tender offer in favor of a hostile takeover. Occasionally I work on resolving an employment dispute or a licensing issue that is affecting the value of a company that one of the firm's clients wants to sell.

Most of my cases involve analyzing many boxes of documents to determine what information was shared in the course of negotiating a purchase, and/or working extensively with forensic accountants from the Big Five accounting firms to follow disputed funds. As a mid-level associate with six years experience, I generally do not review all of the documentation or perform legal research myself, but rely on other attorneys and paralegals for that part of the work. My responsibility is writing briefs and argumentative papers, and attending meetings with the acountants and client middle management to develop the facts of a case. Hearings and trials only occur once or twice a year, although there are fairly frequent arguments on briefs that I have written, some of which I argue, but most of which are argued by more senior attorneys. It's a pretty compartmentalized life.

In general, and especially in arbitrations, the clients want fast results, so the hours tend to be long. There are some heavy months -- I have been working 90 to 110 hours for the past five weeks, and haven't worked less than 12 hours on any day since mid-April -- and there are some light months.

Because the boom has been going on so long, a typical year in this town is about 2700 hours, which equates to 65 hours a week on average, and bonuses are about 20% of salary. Attorneys with five years of experience in this sort of firm in New York are paid about $190,000 per year before bonus compensation, (see greedyassociates.com), so there is a reward for the hours.

That's a fair summary of what I do -- I'm sure other attorneys out there have a different story.

-- Anonymous, May 15, 2000

Tom's answer might leave you confused on this issue, Ashlieghy, but the answer to your second question is that a lawyer and an attorney are the same thing. There are all sorts of different lawyers, but basically, the job involves interpreting the law, acting as an advocate for a party in a legal proceeding, and other work related to the law.

-- Anonymous, May 15, 2000

Hey, now. I was responding to Jan's question, and only indirectly to Ashlieghy's. I've had 3 e-mails about the salary thing, and am beginning to regret that part of the post. You can look up a lot of firms' salary structures at greedyassociates.com -- since I don't work for any of the firms listed there, I did not see myself as volunteering my own salary info. I just meant to talk about the part of the law I know, which is totally focused on paper chases, billable hours, and income. (Beth, if you think it's over the top to quote numbers, just delete the salary stuff, but leave the ref. to greedyassociates.com).

-- Anonymous, May 15, 2000

Tom, I really enjoyed your detailed post about your experience as an attorney, including the salary part. Thanks for taking the time to educate the 'rest' of us who aren't in the know!

-- Anonymous, May 15, 2000

Tom, I didn't have a problem with any part of your post, including salary info -- I was just clarifying because Ashlieghy had asked if there was a difference betwen a lawyer and an attorney, and your post started with "We do very different things ..." I know you meant that different attorneys do different things; I just thought it might confuse someone who was wondering if laywers and attorneys were the same animal. Which we are.

-- Anonymous, May 15, 2000

What's life like in criminal practice? (This question is in part directed at Beth, but all y'all are invited to chime in). It looks like more truth and justice than my line of work -- yes? no? I have this fantasy that in four or five years I'm going to go upstate and be an asistant D.A. or a trial P.D. -- don't think I'd enjoy sitting in the office and drafting appellate briefs all day. Anyone do that for a living? D'ya like it?

Also, are there any academics out there? Law school profs? What's your life like?

-- Anonymous, May 15, 2000

what about you UK folks out there? Ever since I saw "A fish called Wanda" when I was like 13 I have always wondered if there was a differnence in the United Kingdom between lawyers and Barristers., but I've always been too embarassed to ask.

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2000

In the UK (and other countries like Australia -- don't know about Canada) there is a difference between a solicitor and a barrister. A barrister argues in court and is considered the more prestigious of the two occupations, I believe. Of course, I only know this from reading Agatha Christie and other British mysteries.

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2000

From what I can glean from the lawyers in our company (most of whom seem fairly unsure as to the difference themselves) a barrister is a superior form of solictor - like a consulting surgeon versus a doctor.

That may be the case in the UK, but I thought, in NZ, that one appeared in court and one didn't. My brother-in-law is a lawyer, most of my friends are lawyers, and my mother and sister are in the latter stages of law degrees, so you'd think I'd know a bit more.

I'm going to have to find out, because this will bug me otherwise, and I'm a researching geek at heart.

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2000

I am an engineer, and if you want to REALLY know what that is like; read Dilbert.

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2000

I don't know the difference between them, but I do know that in Canada there is a difference between a barrister and a solicitor. Also, most lawyers seem to be both - judging from the business cards I have seen, anyway....not the most scientific sampling or anything :)

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2000

Re: Lawyers/Attorneys - And then there are the "public servants," those of us who trade great big fat greedyassociates.com type salaries for a more humane schedule and lifestyle. Personally, I work for a federal agency that deals with labor-related stuff, and I investigate and prosecute charges of violations of the labor laws we are here to enforce. I get to be "out in the field" a good bit, finding witnesses and interviewing them. My trial schedule has been very light this year, but when it's trial time, I put in 20 hour days, especially if the trial is out of town, as I'm totally on my own with assistant or support staff or anything like that (Kinko's is my home away from home). I started out in private practice doing plaintiffs' labor and employment law, and I liked that, but the billable hours ratrace sucked. I miss being an "advocate", as I was in private practice, but now I really like the more neutral "enforcement" work I'm doing. I make enough to be comfortable, I like the variety of tasks before me, and I feel that the work I do is important and makes a difference in people's lives. At the end of the day, that's about all I could ask from a "job." Well, OK, it could be closer to home! My Atlanta commute bites the BIG one, 25 miles/90 minutes each way. But I try to get around that by cleverly scheduling travel, and lately I am on a pilot "work at home" program where I work at home one day a week. Nirvana!

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2000

Thanks for telling us about your jobs. Like most people, I know lawyers aren't like Perry Mason, but I'm not really sure what they do, exactly.

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2000

Whats life like in criminal practice? It varies enormously. I do mainly white-collar defense work and I work in a firm, not for a public defenders' office. I go to court a lot more than I did when I was a commercial litigator, not just for trial but for appearances (they like to haul defendants into court fairly frequently to make sure they're still around). I interview clients and witnesses, meet with co-counsel and prosecutors, and do a certain amount of reviewing documents. Most of my clients are charged with fraud of various types, although I also have some "white collar people charged with blue collar crimes" -- drugs, DWI, obscene phone calls, etc. Those cases are more fun and a lot less work.

I don't write a huge amount, and I don't spend a lot of time researching the law because criminal law and procedure are an area, after having practiced in it for six years, that I know pretty well. If I do research something, its usually a particularly quirky or newer aspect of the law. My days involve a lot of meetings and a lot of talking to people. I don't do much appellate work, and frankly I don't have the temperament for it. I like figuring out what happened, figuring out how I can spin it, and I like going to court. I love trying cases, even though its exhausting.

I think life is different for public defenders; they generally have much heavier caseloads, so they dont have the time I have to spend on each case, and their clients are more likely to be in jail and also often less articulate and able to help in their own defenses.

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2000

I am a legal assistant and I work in a big law firm full of lawyers. I can't tell you exactly what they do, but I can tell you what they won't do. They won't make their own copies. :)

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2000

They would if they worked at my office. They would also do their own typing, prepare their own tables of authorities and proofs of service, and do their own filing. I do way more of that stuff now than I did when I was an actual file clerk.

I guess I should say what it is that I do. I work for a private non- profit corporation that contracts with the government to handle certain cases. Not all of my job actually involves doing lawyer stuff -- some of what I do involves assisting, training, and evaluating private attorneys who handle criminal appeals on an appointed basis. But that's too complicated, so I'll just tell you about the direct representation stuff.

I represent people who have been convicted of felonies and can't afford to hire a lawyer. (This means almost everyone; even people who hired their own lawyers at the trial level are very often out of money by the time they've been sent to prison.) I work only in state court and usually only at the intermediate appellate level, since very few cases make it to the state Supreme Court.

An appeal is not a new trial. During the trial, the court clerk and the court reporter prepare a written record of everything that happens in court, and when a notice of appeal is filed, a copy of that record goes to the court of appeal, to my office, and to the Attorney General. If I am appointed on the case, I get the record. I read it and look for legal mistakes that were made below. I don't get to relitigate the facts or argue that a witness was lying; I just look for legal errors.

It's not enough to find a mistake, either; I also have to show "prejudice," or how that error harmed my client -- in other words, would there have been a different outcome if the error had not occurred.

After I have reviewed the case and researched the law, I write a brief (which is a legal document that outlines the facts and procedure, and then includes whatever legal arguments I want to raise) and mail it to the court. Then the Attorney General's office files a brief in response. I can file a reply to the AG's brief after that, and then we begin a very long process of waiting while the court reviews the case.

Sometimes the court sets a case for oral argument (usually between eight months and a year after the brief is filed), but California appellate courts don't really like oral argument and generally ask for a waiver in criminal cases. I think civil cases are much more likely to be set for oral argument. If oral argument is waived, the court issues a written opinion telling me why I lose the case. (Okay, I win sometimes. Not very often.)

On the odd chance that I do win, the outcome of the case can be a modification of sentence, a remand to the trial court for further proceedings, or an outright reversal, which usually just means a new trial.

I do almost exclusively direct appeals, meaning an appeal that is limited to the record prepared in the trial court -- no new evidence. Occasionally there are issues that have to be raised via habeas corpus or coram nobis (did I even spell that right?), which means that new evidence can be brought into play. But there is very little funding for that, so usually it's just the direct appeal.

I handle about 75-85 cases a year, and I've been doing this since 1994. Before that I worked for a public defender's office, and I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. Very stressful, way too many clients, and they are even more underpaid than I am. (My starting salary at my job was about $15,000 a year more than new public defenders were making at that time. I don't know how things match up these days.)

Most of my clients are in prison, and since I can't get paid to go visit them, I very rarely do. In fact, in six years I've met two of my clients. I guess that's pretty sad, but it's really okay with me. I talk to them on the phone now and then, but prison phone calls are monitored so most of our communication is through the mail. Sometimes I go through an entire case without ever hearing from my client. Often my clients don't speak English and I have to use a translator for all of our communications. For the last year, until last week, I had a paralegal who handled phone calls from my clients and their families. She's gone now, and boy, do I miss her.

My least favorite part of my job (other than the administrative stuff, which I hate, hate, hate) is talking to my clients' wives and mothers. (Husbands and fathers are rarely a problem.) I have a pretty strict policy of not discussing anything about the case with family, which causes some problems but really solves more than it creates.

I make far less money than any civil attorney I know, and less than any attorney working for the federal government, I think. I make more than some public defenders, and more than most of my non-lawyer friends. I really can't complain about the money aspect; to earn more as a lawyer, I'd have to work harder. Then again, in my particular field I could work as hard as I wanted and I'd never make what lawyers in civil practice make.

I think criminal law is pretty easy. The legal issues aren't that tough to grapple with, at least not in California, where the electorate keeps simplifying everything down to "throw away the key." It's boring; I knew I was in bad shape a year or so ago when I started begging for a good murder or robbery to end the litany of of drugs, drugs, drugs, child molest, drugs, drugs, spousal abuse, drugs, drugs, child molest ... you get the idea.

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2000

Oh, yeah, and to further differentiate my life from Tom's -- I do everything on my cases. As I said, I had a paralegal for a while who screened phone calls and did the preliminary screening of the mail, but no one reviews the record for me and no one helps me with research. If the case gets argued, I do it. If a brief gets filed in the Supreme Court, I do it. I sometimes discuss issues with my team leader, and someone proofreads the brief before it goes out, but that's it; they're just checking for typos by that point.

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2000

Just on the solicitor/barrister thing - solicitors are lawyers/attorneys who can practise as individuals or in partnership; barristers have to be independent and practise on their own. In Australia, and in England, barristers have **no** discretion to refuse a case because of personal feelings about the case. Those two are the main substantive differences - a barrister is completely independent and is bound by the ethical rule to represent anyone - the point about this is so that anyone can get legal representation, no matter how icky they might be. I don't believe the legal profession in the States is bound by this, am I right?

The main obvious difference is that barristers wear the whole silly wig get up in Court and solicitors don't.

Having lots of friends who are solicitors here in Australia, I think the signs around the States saying "no solicitors" are hysterical and I have heaps of photos of me standing under them giggling.

Another fascinating titbit for your reading pleasure cheers Anna

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2000

...and on a followup to Anna's post, in some states of Australia (ie. Tasmania which is where I'm studying law at the moment) you become a combined solicitor/barrister automatically, whereas in other states, I believe Queensland is one, you choose either strand.

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2000

My boss and I came up with this assessment of our job today, and I thought I'd share it with you:

We write arguments that take us twelve hours, for which we will be paid six hours, which the court will reject in two sentences.

That is pretty much my life.

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2000

Emma, very true; here (New South Wales) a common-or-garden attorney is a "solicitor and barrister" and you can choose to take the specialist advocacy strand of just being a barrister. Which is a choice involving some pretty hairy moments in day wear, if you ask me.

cheers Anna

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2000

Seeing that I graduate from law school on Sunday (the 21st), I've appreciated reading this thread. Especially encouraging is the fact that I will get to continue working 20 hour days for as long as I like! All you legal professionals, any advice on bar exam preparation? Not looking for which prep courses to do or anything like that. More along the lines of ways to keep sane. Thanks for any advice.

-- Anonymous, May 17, 2000

Not all civil attorneys have secretarial help -- I just left a job in Boston where I did my own typing, filing, tables of authorities and so on. I was working 60-65 hours a week (Dave Van: 7:30 to 9:50, at least two days Monday to Thursday, 7:30 to 8:10 on the remaining days, except sometime a Friday 7:00 p.m. departure, and occasionally four or five hours on a Saturday morning)for about 40 cents on the dollar of the salaries reported at greedyassociates.com.

My impression of civil commercial and insurance defense practice right now is that it is highly stratified. I would say that it falls into three tiers, each with different income and work hours, but not a whole lot of variation in the work that the attorneys do.

The first tier is made up of a few hundred big commercial/corporate firms, mostly in New York and the tech areas of California, that bill their attorneys out at $300 to $600 per hour, and work for Fortune 100 companies or venture capitalists looking to merge and acquire. The first tier is mostly a brand name thing -- generally it includes established WASP firms from the early part of the century, and a few mega-firms that emerged in the 1980's when mergers and acquisitions first made a big name for themselves. There are also a few spin-off firms where well-recognized partners of the old line firms struck out on their own.

The first tier firms get hired by company attorneys -- often there is a little "nepotism" of a very sophisticated sort that preserves the prestige of the first-tier firms. For example, take Kirkland & Ellis. It's one of the top ten firms nationally, which first made a name for itself when it was a local Chicago firm, chucking spears for the Chicago Herald Tribune (hope I got the name right -- Chi's big paper).

K&E has hundreds of attorneys, and only one in ten of those who work their way up through the ranks are offered an equity stake in the partnership. Every year ten or twenty perfectly competent K&E attorneys have to be pushed out. Generally the firm helps them fiund positions at the big companies that are K&E's clients. Once those attorneys are in a position to decide what firm their new employer will retain as outside counsel, they often refer cases back to K&E. I'm sure it's partly because the new in-house lawyers know that K&E provides top-notch legal services, and they know which of K&E's partners are really good and how to avoid the less outstanding ones -- all information that they don't have about other firms. Also, there is job security for the in-house attorney who hires K&E -- no one ever got fired for hiring one of the big name firms, even if the case was ultimately lost.

Anyway, the practical effect of the top-tier practice of pushing attorneys out and helping them to find new jobs that in turn lets the former employees "do the right thing" and hire the old firm, is an increased demand for top-tier firms' services, which in turn drives their rates up. During the boom of the past eight years, once your law firm gets on the brand-name express, you simply can't get off.

These first tier firms tend to work their associates -- junior attorneys with less than, say, twelve years experience -- in the neighborhood of 2500 - 3000 bilable hours per year. Very few of the associates are invited to join the partnership, but those that do can expect income in the high-six, low-seven figure range. I would be surprised if there are more than five or ten thousand partners in the U.S. earning at those first tier partnership levels. Of course, the associates themselves are earning $200,000 plus (including generous year-end bonus packages, which function as a major incentive to stick around).

This first tier, with its $200,00 per year junior people and its million dollar partners, are the people the entire industry measures itself against -- there are attorneys earning $45,000 a year in Peoria, living in perfectly nice houses, and still feeling very poor.

The first tier is pursued by a huge body of second tier firms that are just like the first tier firms, except that their billing rates are in the $150-250 per hour range and their clients are usually smaller than the Fortune 100 companies. Those firms often have good relationhips with their clients and place their people in-house, but somehow the money just isn't there for them in the same way that it is there for the first tier -- I don't pretend to know why. Second-tier associates bill about 2200 hours, give or take. (These firms often tell an incoming employee that they expect about 1800 billable hours per year). In New York, a second-tier firm attorney with five years experience makes $150,000 or so. Not bad compared to the first-tier associate. The difference really comes with partnership, where the income may "only" be $250,000.

Second tier firms in other cities pay their associate attorneys significantly less. In Boston an associate with five years experience who is not working for Testa Hurwitz, Mintz Levin, or one of the four or five other local powerhouses, is lucky to make $100,000 per year; in Pittsburgh the number is more like $75,000 or $80,000.

The third tier is everybody else -- one big chunk of this tier is the so-called "insurance defense firm." Many insurance companies contract their work out to a limited number of firms within a geographic area. In return for loyalty, they extract fee discounts that drive the billing rates below $100 per hour. Associates at an insurance defense firm in Boston are lucky to make $40,000 per year, and they bill the same 2200 hours that they would at a second-tier firm.

The inequities at the junior attorney level are as brand-name driven as they are at the senior level. A Harvard or Columbia law degree is very easy to turn into a $135,000 starting salary in New York. A state university degree may get you into the local top-tier firm, but it's harder. There is a whole ranking/tier system for law schools, too.

All of these salaries and law school issues may only affect the world of civil defense litigation -- which is the one that I know. Perhaps that's more information than you wanted, but I wish someone had told me all this before I went to law school.

-- Anonymous, May 17, 2000

If you really are working twenty hours a day, the bar exam will be a breeze. Do whatever you have to do to not have a job during that time -- I tried to work but barely lasted a week. If you currently work and go to school, the bar exam will feel like a vacation. It's a lot of studying, but if you've been workign during school, you'll probably have more free time than you've had in years. Don't abuse that, of course; think of it as free time for going to the gym, taking a walk, making yourself some decent meals. You don't want to be out partying and you probably will need to study for eight or nine hours every single day, including weekends. But if you normally work five to eight hours a day and go to school, it will feel like a vacation. At least, it did to me. I got all kinds of recreational reading done during bar review.

Also, don't get behind. You'll hate yourself for it.

-- Anonymous, May 17, 2000

You know, I really have no idea what other lawyers make around here. I know there was great dismay when a few San Francisco firms started offering new associates over $100K a year a while back, but I imagine that's gone up. It never occurred to me to apply at a civil firm when I was in law school; the other students seemed to know so much that I didn't know about the interview process, summer associate positions, which firms were desireable and which were not ... I'm not sure I knew what a billable hour was when everyone was going through interviews. I felt very much like a country bumpkin in law school.

Your post made me realize that things could be much worse, Tom -- I could be working for an insurance defense firm in Pittsburgh. Of course, the cost of living may be lower there than it is in Sacramento. I don't know.

Public interest/non-profit law is a whole different ballgame, of course, and I haven't looked at salaries in a while, but I know that my office is higher up on the salary scale than the vast majority of nonprofits. When I was just getting out of law school, I remember the huge competition for certain legal aid jobs -- those jobs start at about $25K a year, and they can have their pick of Ivy League applicants. Even public defender jobs were competitive at that time (1993 was a bad year for legal jobs, though, because firms were downsizing like crazy). There was a brief period where you needed actual trial experience -- as in personally representing someone in court in a jury trial -- by the time you passed the bar in order to get a public defender or assistant DA job in any of the decent offices in California. (Students who have taken evidence and completed their second year of law school can represent clients in court in California under the supervision of another lawyer.) I don't know if it's still like that, but it certainly was in 1993.

I really can't complain about salary or work hours at my job; our billables are technically 1840 a year, which if you do the math works out to a 40 hour week with two weeks of vacation, two weeks of sick leave, and all the major holidays. Most people work a lot more than that, although they may or may not be able to bill their time. (I don't know if that happens in civil practice, the "work 12 to make 8" thing?) I do know that most people -- including me, although not always -- take work home every night, come in for at least one day on the weekend, and stay late most nights.

Still, if you can get your work done in 1840 (or 1800, after you've been there a while) hours, this is a great mommy track job, and most of my coworkers are soccer moms (and a few dads, but I work with mostly women). It's expected that people will take off for the day if their son has a track meet or their daughter has a dance recital. A few people are on a reduced schedule (3/4 time, for instance) to be with their families.

I don't know what folks in the upper echelons make; that information is very hush-hush. I know that the senior attorneys take a lot of nice vacations, send their kids to good schools, and have nice houses, for the most part. Most of them took a pay cut to work here, in exchange for a more relaxed life style.

I think I'm somewhere toward the middle of the bottom, salary- wise -- I make significantly more than I did when I started, but I'm pretty sure that new attorneys who came in were offered more. It's hard to judge since no one knows what anyone else is making.

-- Anonymous, May 17, 2000

About the bar exam -- if you aren't working, it isn't that hard to get ready. Go ahead and hate me, but after three years of law school and four years of college, studying for the bar felt like a vacation to me. I got up, went to bar review, went home, ate lunch and watched all my children (oh, the shame!), took a nap, woke up, started dinner/did my reading, went for a run (only time in my LIFE I ran every day), finished and served dinner, finished my homework, went to bed. It felt great. (Until the night before the exam, when I had my first bout of insomnia ever.)

About lawyer salaries -- Tom is right, thso enormous salaries you read about, first year assocaites getting $100,000+, are for a very small segment of the lawyer population. I work for a small firm in New York, we're arguably one of the top white-collar defense firms, I've been out of law school for ten years, and a second-year associate at a top tier firm like Cravath makes more than I do. (She probably works more hours, has less responsibility, and basically crappier work, too, but then again she never has to go to night court.)

-- Anonymous, May 17, 2000

Bar Exam...ugh! In hindsight, I think the smartest thing I did preparing was to take a practice test, which was a 4 hour mini exam (part of a prep course I took). From that, I learned that I had a really hard time paying attention to those silly multistate multiple choice questions. The real exam has 200 of those; the practice test had 50, which I discovered was about the limit of my attention. So, during the actual exam, paced myself very precisely, thought on each question, "this one question could make or break me, pay attention!", and allowed five minutes of every hour to get up out of my little seat, go to the back of the room, and walk around. It cleared my head, allowing me a little push of steam for each hour of the exam. Others were also doing this, so I did not feel strange or anything. They actually had a big area set aside in the back of the room, out of view of the test-takers, just so folks could move around a bit.

I had done law school part time at night while working full time during the days (the five-year plan), so the time "off" doing the prep course for two weeks was a vacation for me! Also, I got a hotel near the exam site so that I would not have to worry about the 50 mile commute each way, oversleeping, etc.

I passed by two points, so it turns out my "this one question could make or break me" mantra was right-on. Each of those little buggers was worth 2 points. And I'm so proud that my score validated the efficiency of my preparation!

Good luck!

-- Anonymous, May 17, 2000

I know the conversation has moved on from the original question, but today I was looking up something entirely unrelated and tripped over this: http://www.theslot.com/part1.html#atty

According to The Slot, the word lawyer applies to someone with a law degree (and I'm wondering if that's correct, or if it applies only to those who have passed the bar?), while an attorney is someone who acts on someone's behalf in a court of law. (as he points out, non- lawyers can act as their own attorney in a court case.)

In other words, 'lawyer' is a profession, 'attorney' is a role within that profession that the lawyer may or may not perform.

-- Anonymous, May 17, 2000

In New Zealand (where I live) we do not have a split bar. You can practice both as a barrister and a solicitor if you have completed a law degree and been admitted to the bar.

However, you cannot go into practice by yourself as a solicitor unless you have had three years experience and have completed some training in managing a trust account.

Theoretically ou can become a barrister as soon as you've been admitted to the bar and have paid for a practicing certificate. In practice you will probably find it hard to get work.

Traditionally (& I think this applies to the UK too) a member of the public can't just approach a barrister. They have to go through a solicitor who then instructs the barrister. So in that respect it is like the doctor/specialist relationship but I wouldn't say that means the barrister is viewed as being of higher status.I'm not quite sure what the justification of the referral system is.Maybe something to do with the fact barristers don't have trust accounts? They bill the instructing solicitor rather than the client.

I, myself, am a law academic. Only a junior one and only recently begun so the gloss hasn't worn off it yet but on the whole I think its not a bad way of life. I will never make as much money as someone in private practice could but after 7 years I will get a full paid year off to go on sabbatical. I don't have to keep time sheets and I can pursue my own intellectual interests up to a certain point.

-- Anonymous, May 18, 2000

Hey cool - another New Zealander!!!!

Amanda - where in NZ are you? (you can email if you like, because I bet nobody else here will know what we're talking about!)

-- Anonymous, May 19, 2000

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