Four Veteran Attorneys Speak Truth to Current & Aspiring Law Students

Darryl Isaacs's Personal Injury Legal Blogs

Licensed for 25 years

Attorney in Louisville, KY

Darryl Isaacs

Free initial consultation, Credit cards accepted

Serving Louisville, KY

  • Serving Louisville, KY

  • Free initial consultation, Credit cards accepted

Member at firm Isaacs & Isaacs, P.S.C.

Serving Louisville, KY

Free initial consultation, Credit cards accepted

THEME:
Collecting a panel of experienced lawyers practicing in Colorado, California, Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio, we looked to get some no-nonsense, deeply practical career and life input for the many students currently filling or about to permeate the grand halls of law schools around the country. Straight from the veterans, here’s the real deal about taking the legal leap.

THE ATTORNEYS:

Attorney:
Carrie Chaille Eckstein
Practice Area: Family Law
Firm: The Harris Law Firm, Colorado
Law School: University of Dayton School of Law
Years Practicing: Graduated from law school 2006, passed the Colorado
Bar and licensed Oct. 2006.
First Legal Job: I was an intern for the Arizona State Senate. I was a legal intern for a County Court Judge in Indiana. I’d likely consider this my first “legal job.” As an attorney, my first job was with a Denver Law Firm.

Attorney:
Darryl Isaacs
Practice Area: Personal Injury, Litigation, Insurance
Firm: Isaacs & Isaacs – Kentucky, Indiana & Ohio
Law School: University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law.
Years Practicing: Sworn in to practice law in October, 1992. Bar License in Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio.
First Legal Job: I clerked for an attorney for a couple of years
during law school and got to second chair over 21 jury trials. I had a lot of experience. But this was criminal law and then he let me work on his personal injury. My job with a criminal attorney parlayed into what I am doing now. Then when I came out, I ended up going into practice with my father.

Attorney:
Timothy Kinsey
Practice Area: Workers’ Compensation Defense as well as
longshore and harbor workers’ and safety officer disability
retirement claims. Defense Workers Compensation, originally out of
Law school with LA County DA’s office. Then made a decision to do
something allowing more freedom and working in the private sector.
Firm: Stander Reubens Thomas Kinsey, Orange County, California
Law School: Southwestern University School of Law
Years Practicing: Mr. Kinsey has been a member of the
California State Bar since 1991 and has practiced workers’
compensation defense since 1992.
First Legal Job: Right out of law school I was piecemealing with some civil work. I found it very boring, not very preparatory, certainly for litigation. I went into workers compensation February 1992.

Attorney: Mari Katherine Zang
Practice Area: Criminal Law
Firm: U.S. Attorney’s Office, Los Angeles, California
also licensed in New York State
Law School: University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law
Years Practicing: 8 years now (6 years in NY)
First Legal Job: My first legal job was actually an internship with the
Department of Homeland Security, I also got to intern for the
District Attorney’s office and the California EPA (luckily Sacramento
is the capital of California, so lots of agencies there).

SHOULD I GO TO LAW SCHOOL?

CARRIE CHAILLE ECKSTEIN
To aspiring law students – Law school may likely be your last stop for education before entering the real world workplace. Before that, do something, take a job, or major in a profession that you think you will want to pursue after law school; see if you really do like that area, weigh the benefits of having a law degree for that profession.

Even then, realize that law school can open a lot of doors for you and can be a platform for a specific area of law that you wish to pursue, but having a foundation and an interest before law school will help you tailor your legal education so that you are prepared to enter the workplace with some familiarity of your subject. Also, do a study abroad program before law school; see the world before law school.

MARI KATHERINE ZANG
Law school is too expensive and difficult to do on a whim or just because you don’t know what else to do. Prepare yourself for the hardest 3 years of your life, it will be twice as hard as you can imagine. And before you begin law school, go do something non-law related! If you only have the summer, travel or read fun books, whatever you like doing, because you won’t have time to do it in law school. If you’ve got a year or two, get a job or travel or do something that will enrich your overall experience and make you a more attractive candidate for law schools. (Go hunt down elephant poachers in Africa? Run a small business or campaign? Visit a remote temple in a far off country?)

WHERE SHOULD I GET LICENSED TO PRACTICE LAW?

DARRYL ISAACS
The more you do, the more marketable you are. I am licensed in three states (Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana) and I would always recommend trying to get licensed in more than one state.

TIMOTHY KINSEY
I was born and raised in California, so without even thinking about law, it’s my home state and I love California. California is a very liberal litigious state. I didn’t choose law because of that, it just so happens to be that we have a lot of litigation here that over in Texas wouldn’t make it past the filing clerk. I’m not moving from California, it’s a great state, and if I wasn’t doing law I’d be doing something else, but it would be in California.

CARRIE CHAILLE ECKSTEIN
I knew I loved Colorado from growing up skiing here. Then I lived here between my 2nd and 3rd years of law school because I did a lot of research and sent in a lot of applications and I had two internships that took me to two different places in the city in alternate days of the week for the summer. I met some great friends and had the promise of a job upon graduation. So, in my 3rd year I was able to focus on Bar Classes for the Colorado State Bar. Planning in that 3rd year took a lot of pressure off of me while studying for the Bar and knowing I had a job. I already knew that I loved the mountains and the people because of living and working here for a summer.

MARI KATHERINE ZANG
After you survive your first year at law school, you should know which state you want to practice in, so you should start studying those laws. Luckily I wanted to practice in California and I was in school in California, so they taught us California law and I was prepared for the bar. But, if you know you want to practice in a different state, stop wasting your time on California law and get studying that state’s law. Graduation is the end goal to law school, but passing the bar is how you cash in on all that work you did.

WHAT WORK EXPERIENCE SHOULD I BE GETTING NOW?

DARRYL ISAACS
The harder you work, the luckier you get. I would just advise law students to clerk in the summers in the area of law they may have an interest in. For example if you want to do criminal law then maybe go work at the prosecutor’s office or the public defender and get a feel for what it would be like once you start practicing.

CARRIE CHAILLE ECKSTEIN
Take a job and an internship before law school, or during the summers of law school. You need to have some actual jobs on your resume. I have recently seen so many millennial resumes without any actual employment experience and it is scary to meet an upper 20’s to 30 year old who has never had a boss to answer to or a co-worker to get along with.

A job on your resume shows that you understand
the basic hierarchy of a law office,
you understand that the receptionist may be the most important person in the office,
you know to treat your paralegal with reverence,
you know that your boss may not be in the office everyday, so you need to find another mentor who will answer all of your questions
and you know how to set a calendar and manage appointments while multitasking.

Ask questions, and don’t make assumptions. And when you go to ask questions, have your Rule or Statute book in your hand, turned to where you believe you should be able to find the answer. Read a Rule of Civil/Criminal Procedure, Rule of Evidence, and/or Rule of Professional Conduct every morning to start your day; once you finish reading them all, start over.

MARI KATHERINE ZANG
Get to know the classes ahead of you. Current students have already been through your pain and can be some of the best resources for study materials.
Find a study group, that studies. Law is complex and nuanced so talking it out with other like minds will work wonders for your understanding and retention.
Try out different legal fields through internships. There are so many firms and organizations hungry for law student interns and externs.
Try out a bunch of different areas of law so you not only build a strong legal foundation, but also so you can find the type of law you like best.
Live a little! Law school is time consuming, but if you only study and work, you’ll burn out fast. Go out, be social, take a weekend off, maybe even travel a little!
Keep your eye on the prize.

TIMOTHY KINSEY
My recommendation would be get a job, work, work some more, then continue to work, have some bad days, manage your expectations, and then get up the next morning and do it all over again. Because that’s the real world if you are going to be a lawyer. There’s some great rewarding stuff to this.

Some of the attorneys that I’ve seen come through and come out of law school with their degree and say, “hey guess what, I went to college full time, mom and dad put me through college, and then I had to go out and get a job, but I didn’t want to do that, so I went back to law school and mom and dad put me through law school for three years.

And now, for the very first time, after 7 years, they are going to come into a field that requires an incredible amount of dedication, and conviction and blood and sweat and emotional sacrifice… you’re dealing with, at least in what I do, litigation, so you’re dealing with adversity. And that’s your first job. All of the sudden, you need to rise to the occasion. So, ya get some life experience, working, dealing with people.

Litigation, you gotta get out there and you gotta work. Clerk. Work while you’re in law school. I’m not talking 10-15-20 hours. Go get a job, be working 30 hours a week, and then studying as well, that’s the real world. 10% is what you learned in law school, 90% is just hard work and effort.

HOW ABOUT NERVES IN THE COURTROOM?

TIMOTHY KINSEY
Nerves, nervousness, anxiety before certain appearances will never go away, and it should never go away, and it’s there for a reason. It’s there to say, you need to be on your toes for what’s coming up, it’s a warning.

But what goes away is the effect that those emotions have on you. So ya, you may be nervous and you may be anxious, and you should be. But you’re not going to forget to ask a question, you’re not going to forget to make a point. You’re not going to let some guy who is sitting next you, who is yelling at you, and objecting to you, break your train of thought. That comes with experience. But the anxiety and the nerves, of course, they’re always there and they always will be.

WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE FICTIONAL CHARACTER IN A LAW TV SHOW OR FILM?

TIMOTHY KINSEY
For entertainment you gotta love “My Cousin Vinny,” it’s unrealistic but you’d love to be able to get away with that in the courtroom. And if you could ask try a case like Atticus Finch, that’d be fantastic too.

DARRYL ISAACS
I love the show “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” and the Detective Robert Goren, played by Vincent D’onofrio.

CARRIE CHAILLE ECKSTEIN
Terrible. I grew up liking “Ally McBeal.” Now, my lawyer husband watches “Suits,” which is so far off the actual practice of law, but it is lighthearted and flashy. It’s a legal show that actually makes me forget about work. I don’t really watch any of the legal shows because I get irritated at how unrealistic they are.

MARI KATHERINE ZANG
Easy! I love love love Jack McCoy from Law and Order. Yes, it’s not very realistic, but his closing arguments have some great delivery!

CLOSING ARGUMENTS FOR LAW SCHOOL STUDENTS

DARRYL ISAACS
If I was advising anybody thinking of going to law school, I would try to go to a law school in the state that they are a resident, because every state’s got some outstanding law schools. The difference is that I paid about 10 percent of what I would have out of state. I would go in state and go cheap!

CARRIE CHAILLE ECKSTEIN
It always seems that women are asked about “work/life balance” a lot more than men, but it’s really just a human need. I remember running around the park one night with my then boyfriend, now husband, and comparing our “war stories,” when half-way in the run he stopped and said, “We have to leave work at work.” He was right. We now give each other a few minutes to vent, if we have to, but otherwise, I talk to my paralegal and colleagues about any work issues, and I only vent at home if there is an especially terrible and unprofessional opposing counsel that I am still thinking about it. I rarely check my work email on my phone outside of work hours unless I am specifically expecting something. And that really helps.

MARI KATHERINE ZANG
Someone once told me that most attorneys will drift between different areas of law before settling in their chosen field. As a type A control freak, I did not like hearing that. But it turned out to be so true for me and many of my colleagues. I fell into bankruptcy, which was an ideal starter job, which lead me to civil litigation and then to working with the government, first on the civil side, and then on the criminal side (and I said I’d never do criminal law! But I really love my position). So let yourself be led into different areas of law as you build your resume!

TIMOTHY KINSEY
There is honestly nothing that prepared me for what I am doing now, other than what I am doing now.
I think what it is is the old adage, “Law school prepares you to take the Bar.” It certainly does not teach you to be a lawyer. You learn that doing what you are gonna do coming out of law school.

There are so many things you just don’t get taught in law school and things that are just completely irrelevant to actually what you’re going to be doing: the writing type that you’re going to be doing, the client service, the client communications, litigation, how to deal with adverse counsel, adverse judges, adverse clients.

With all the TV shows and movies, it’s always the client that’s lucky to have this great lawyer. Honestly, it’s the lawyer who is lucky to have the great client.

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