Law 426 - Transition to Small and Mid-Sized Practice

Daniel Y. Zohar

Daniel Y. Zohar

Lecturer in Law
B.A. Duke University, 1990
J.D. UCLA School of Law, 1993
Course Description:

Most lawyers will work, at some point in their careers, in a small or medium-sized law firm. For many law students, their first job will be with such a firm. Students in this course will acquire the knowledge and tools needed to potentially thrive in a small or medium-sized firm setting. Areas expected to be covered include 1) the business side of smaller law practices and how new lawyers can provide real value to a firm, 2) the practical issues that arise in smaller law practices, both for litigation and transactional attorneys, and 3) ethical issues common to smaller law practices.

The main focus of this class will be to prepare students to “hit the ground running” should they choose to work in a smaller law practice or even start their own practice. Regarding litigation, the class will cover subjects such as case evaluation, client retention, and trial, including related ethical considerations.  As for transactional work, the class will address those issues unique to smaller corporate practices and typically includes guest speakers who previously worked as transactional lawyers in large firms but then transitioned into a smaller practice. Depending on the availability of guest speakers, the class also will likely address perspectives from judges and corporate clients regarding smaller law practices.

A portion of this seminar will likely deal with ethical issues such as properly drafting client retainer agreements, communications with clients, determining when a matter goes beyond the scope and resources of a smaller practice, trust account maintenance, identifying and disclosing conflicts, unique issues during trial and deal closings, and properly terminating the attorney-client relationship.

Lastly, the course will address how to assess the best places to work as a lawyer, considering all of the above in conjunction with quality of life issues, comparisons with larger firms, and generally getting a feel for the culture of each firm in order to determine what is right for you.

The course is pass/fail.

The instructor for this class has been practicing as a civil trial attorney for more than 25 years, earlier with a large international firm, but for the last 20 years while running his own small firm in Los Angeles.   He will be bringing the lessons learned over those years to the classroom.

Course Learning Outcomes:

At the end of the course, students will have further insight as to:

1) How law firms function as businesses;

2) How smaller law firms handle clients, litigation, transactions, etc.

3) Effective strategies for succeeding in a smaller firm; and

4) Ethical issues that are common to smaller law firms.