Career Story: Transactional Attorney

Transactional Attorney

Job Title: Transactional Attorney

Type of Company: Our law firm provides legal services to a wide variety of clients. Such legal services include business transactional (helping with contracts, business relationships, real estate matters, and entities like corporations and limited liability companies) as well as estate planning, tax advice and civil litigation. But we don't do any criminal defense work.

Education: BA, Economics, Brigham Young University •• JD, Brigham Young University

Previous Experience: I worked as a law clerk during law school.

Job Tasks: Some people refer to me as a "desk lawyer." I never go to court or otherwise deal in matters being resolved via courtroom proceedings. If I am dealing with a matter that starts to move in that direction, I will pass it on to an attorney who specializes in litigation. Litigation looks dramatic, at least on TV, but there are many other areas of specialty within the law.

Most of my time is spent in one of two ways: (i) communicating with a client or other attorneys for the purpose of getting information about our case, understanding the issue that needs to be handled in the contracts, or negotiating a satisfactory solution to a certain sticking point in a deal (such as helping my client and the other party come to an agreement on whether the purchase price for a property should be adjusted if a survey shows that it's bigger or smaller than originally thought); or (ii) reading, writing, or revising legal documents, mainly contracts.

Most of my interaction with clients and others is by email or phone. Technology has made it possible for me to do my job without having to meet with a client face-to-face. However, many clients prefer to meet in person, and some situations require everyone involved to get together to discuss the resolution of outstanding sticking points so that everyone's in agreement.

Clients rely on me to "protect their interests," which typically means either not letting the agreements they sign contain any unexpected traps or other problems that could hurt them during their dealings under the contract after everyone has signed, or making sure that certain points are covered in a way that takes care of a particular issue that may be really important to my client.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: One of the best parts of my job is getting to work with good, smart people who are good at what they do and are willing to help in areas of their expertise. I am fortunate to work in a law firm where the great majority of the lawyers are not egotistical maniacs. Working with good, smart people helps me to continue to become better and smarter myself. Another good part of my job is the income potential. I have the ability to support my family well, and my particular firm is willing to allow me to do that without selling my whole life to the firm.

The worst part of my job is the billable hour. Many, if not most, new lawyers quickly learn to hate the billable hour system. Under the traditional model, attorneys sell their time in portions of hours (either tenths or quarters of hours) charged to clients for the time spent on client matters. Those hours sold are always measured by the firm to evaluate how productive an attorney is being. All day I have to track what I am working on and how much time I spend on each task. The worst part of the billable hour system is that clients always want you to spend 15 minutes on a project, no matter how complicated it is, because they don't want to be charged any more than absolutely necessary. However, most projects take more time than that. And the more time I bill the better I look to the firm, anyway. So there is always a bit of a tug-of-war between the client, who wants very little time spent on his matter, and the attorney, who needs to make sure the work is done right and wants to bill all of the time spent on the matter in order to get appropriate credit with the firm.

Job Tips: Find and talk to attorneys who are already doing what you want to do. Make sure that being an attorney is something you have a good chance of enjoying. Many attorneys, especially young attorneys, hate their jobs. That is a miserable way to spend your life. If you can, work at a law firm to get a better idea of what real life is like as an attorney. If things go well there, the relationships you create can also come in very handy for getting into law school and even finding a job afterwards.

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