The Components Of Lawyer Competence – Part One
Lawyers, especially attorney-advocates, must possess minimum competence to serve clients and the interests of the public-at-large. The following are six components of minimum competence that relate to the more technical side of the practice of law.
The ability to communicate orally and in writing
Attorneys must possess both the verbal and written skills to communicate with lawyers and clients equally. An attorney who cannot clearly and concisely communicate his or her legal position on behalf of a client, especially when it is viably strong, is like a fisherman with a full boat of fish but no paddle to get back to shore. Lawyers must, concisely, effectively, and in language that clients understand, communicate with clients.
An understanding of legal procedures and sources of law
In past decades, traditional law schools, unlike the California Desert Trial Academy which emphasizes a balanced approach to helping a law student evolve into a true attorney-advocate, only taught the substantive law popularizing the saying that “Law school teaches students the law, it doesn’t teach students how to practice law.”
After completing law school and the bar exam, most new attorneys admit that they lack a basic understanding of key legal, administrative, and legislative processes and procedures, as well as alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.
An understanding of threshold legal concepts
There are certain threshold legal concepts, like the fundamental law of agency dealing with principal and agent, within legal disciplines that must be considered regularly in all types of legal matters. New lawyers require an understanding of the law as a whole rather than a collection of detailed legal rules.
The ability to interpret legal materials
The ability to interpret legal materials is an essential skill for every lawyer. It requires a comprehensive understanding of the distinctions between the role of precedent, holding and dictum in judicial opinions, canons of statutory construction, and rules for interpreting contracts, including the ability to read carefully, give keen attention to detail, and retain this information in an orderly fashion for future reference.
The ability to identify legal issues
As my Contracts professor said in the first week of school, spotting issues and determining the needs of clients requires attorneys to sift through the substance of a lengthy client interview. This is easier said than done as it often involves listening to a client recount detail after detail, many perhaps irrelevant, about the situation at hand.
Real-life practice differs from what new lawyers experienced during law school and the bar exam. According to new lawyers, while difficult, identifying legal issues from actual conversations with clients rather than superficially spotting issues on exams required them to think critically, understand threshold concepts in a wide range of legal subjects, and interact effectively with clients.
The ability to conduct legal research
This component is stressed by many from new attorneys to distinguished legal scholars. The importance of the ability to conduct research to answer specific legal questions posed by clients, verify and update knowledge of legal doctrines, and find information about local rules or practices cannot be minimized. Memorization is not the key to success but knowing where to look for legal information often is.
The path to becoming an effective attorney-advocate for those harmed by and wrongly accused of domestic violence leads to the California Desert Trial Academy. The distance learning program offered by the California Desert Trial Academy College of Law is tailor-made to meet the needs and demands of students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Call us today at (760) 342-0900 or find out more online here.