Law

XCIV: What Is A J.D. Anyway?

Most of my family doesn’t know that I am still in school. And those who do know have no clue what type of degree I am working on — and honestly many people don’t know what a J.D. is, they just know what a lawyer is.

Lawyers and doctors are thought of amongst societies elite, but many people don’t even understand the process that comes before the title. So, my hope is that this post will help just a tiny bit.

THE LEVELS:

A lot of people are confused about what level of education a Juris Doctorate is, even though the answer is in the title. Don’t worry, I understand!

Many think that a J.D. and a Master’s are about the same, which is simply NOT true.  Here’s a boring spectrum, if ever there were one:

High School Diploma ➡️AA Degree ➡️BA/BS (Bachelor’s Degree) ➡️MA/MBA (Master’s Degree) ➡️ Doctorate Degrees — PsyD/Juris Doctorate/PhD/MD

Every degree in the last category are amongst the highest degrees that one can receive. So there is no ‘I got a Master’s instead of a Juris Doctorate’ because they are simply not in the same category. If it’s easier, you can think of them as stepping stones.

I know a person with a degree in every category (or degree in progress) so I just think of each of them as a stepping stone to the next where one is required before the other (except Master’s). I see each as more and more of an accomplishment along the way, but I am sure to educate myself on what each degree means so that I address each person with said degree accordingly.

You worked for the degree, but I’m not in the business of giving you more than what you worked for or of giving you less than what you worked for. So, the levels are important.

THE CONFUSION:

The only reason that I forget that I am getting a degree in the doctoral level of education is that I am not done once I finish school. I still have to sit for the bar exam (although this is an option, and not everyone who attends law school takes the bar exam).

I oftentimes forget to pat myself on the back for the work that I’ve done, the progress that I’ve made, and the places that I’ve been with the hard work that I’ve put into getting these degrees.

But, I want it to be clear that, once you get a degree such as a J.D., you have options!

  1. You can be done and simply denote that you have a J.D. by leaving those initials at the end of your name (which is cool).  _____________, J.D.

  2. You can take the part of the degree that acknowledges you as a Doctor of Jurisprudence and call yourself Dr. ____________.

  3. You can sit for the bar exam, pass, and place “Esquire/Esq.” in your surname — making you ____________, Esq.

  4. Do nothing and keep your degree a secret. I commend your humility.

  5. But, as long as you pass the bar exam (in addition to your moral character application and the MPRE), you can practice law in your state. Otherwise, you can work wherever you see fit — many with J.D.s go to the Capitol.

So, I think that I’ve said all that needs to be said about a Juris Doctorate degree.

The big takeaways here are that (1) THIS IS A BIG DEAL; (2) Acknowledge people’s degrees correctly — they worked hard for it!; (3) if you’re unsure about what someone’s degree is or what to call them, then JUST ASK THEM. If they aren’t jerks, then chances are, they’ll explain it to you (I’ve had someone try to place Master’s and J.D.’s in the same category and then get upset when I asked her what a Master’s was in comparison to a J.D.).

Moving forward! Congrats to the Class of 2019. Congrats to all receiving Juris Doctorate degrees. Hopefully this post helps to explain what the heck that actually means.

🎓🎓🎓

XCIII: Keeping An Open Mind - My Problem With Legal Online Dispute Resolution

Online dispute resolution is exactly what it sounds like: it is communication online or over the phone wherein judges and lawyers facilitate the resolution of disputes between parties.

My biggest problem with this is that we already live in a world where laziness and a failure to do one’s job is the status quo. Taking the “personal” out of the mediation or arbitration experience, in my opinion, would simply do a disservice to clients everywhere.

BUT, I CANNOT PRETEND LIKE THERE AREN’T MANY BENEFITS:

The biggest benefit is that, for those who cannot make it to the courthouse for arbitration, or to the mediator’s office for a mediation, they can literally just find a space with Wifi and get the dispute resolution that they seek.

Another benefit to Online Dispute Resolution is that it frees up the courts a bit. Although there are separate moving pieces for everything, judges, lawyers, and mediators are busy!

Being able to settle cases or resolve matters while on the go could free up time for attorneys and mediators, so there’s potentially more benefits there. I just have a hard time looking past the negatives of ODR.

One last positive is for the people who are out of the country and need to “attend” a proceeding. Instead of making them travel across the world, they can simply travel to a quiet spot with wifi and connect with their mediator, attorney or judge.

So, I can’t say that ODR is all bad, but I definitely look at it with extreme reserve. I just believe that we cannot take the “personal” out of the legal experience and still do a good job at being advocates for our clients.

LAW IS A CUSTOMER SERVICE FIELD WHETHER PEOPLE KNOW IT OR NOT.

Lawyers rely on their clients (in many cases) to keep their businesses going. This means that they are in the business of people, i.e. customer service. If your client isn’t happy about the fact that she can’t reach you at all, then she’s going to spread the word and before you know it, you’re known as the attorney who was too busy for her client.

In law, reputation is everything, so it would behoove any attorney to realize this and act accordingly.

Keeping the clients first means that you are communicating effectively and when needed. It means that you are there to answer their questions, no matter how small. When you sign a client up, you are signing up for the contact even if it seems like overkill.

Yes, the majority of this contact will be done over the phone, but I know from experience that the clients look forward to those moments where they get to actually sit down with the attorney and talk face to face. For some reason, these are the only times that they feel that their needs are being met and that they are heard in a realm that many of them have no clue about.

ALL I’M SAYING IS THAT…

We need to keep the part about lawyering where the lawyer actually cares, tries to communicate with his/her clients, and is about more than just a check.

I’ve seen it in my years of being a law clerk that there are attorneys whose only concern is the check, but I have faith because I literally worked at a firm where every single lawyer cared about their clients (good and bad) and cared about getting the best break for their clients beyond the check.