IV. The Practical Skills of Lawyering
When I became Chief, the elders came to me and said: “You cannot do
a thing right unless you understand how the whole system works. Only
then can you know what needs to be done.
They told me the story of
the grey squirrel. Long ago, the world had only one tree, a mighty oa
deeply rooted in the earth and crowned with clouds
For many moons,
Mother Tree dwelt in solitude, but the quiet made her sad, and so she
made the first squirrels from her silvery bark and their chatter filled her days
with joy. The squirrels loved to play and delighted in the crunchy acorns
that grew in her boughs. In their first season, the young squirrels clung
desperately to Mother Tree, exploring her foundations and clawing up and
44 There is a battle in the legal academic community between those who favor skills
training and those who favor theory. Certainly, all would agree that both are necessary.
Lawyering is a trade; it involves certain practical skills, such as drafting legal docu-
ments, taking depositions, oral argument, and business management. These skills are
often delegated to elective courses, resulting in many lawyers leaving school having no
procedural knowledge of the day-to-day aspects of their job. While this could easily be
remedied by including practical skills courses in the basic curriculum, a balance must
be struck. Law school is not vocational school. A lawyer must be able to read a law and
abstract its application to all varieties of situations as they present themselves. Theory
is vital and it takes years to train a mind to think that way. One compromise would be
to bring practitioners in to theoretical courses to discuss the practical application of the
concepts being presented.
45 For an explanation of how the law is like a tree, see “The Farmer’s Answer,” a Kelsen
metaphor, in my previous paper,
, in
, J
: E
230–31 (Tim Kaye ed., 2011).
46 The tree is wreathed in clouds to represent the loftier philosophical extremities of each
area of the law.
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