Mark is the CEO of Legal Mosaic; Distinguished Fellow at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law; and the inaugural LIFTED Catalyst-in-Residence @ Singapore Academy of Law. He was the co-founder of Clearspire, a groundbreaking legal service provider, and has had a distinguished legal career as an assistant U.S. Attorney, a Biglaw partner, and founder and managing partner of a national litigation boutique firm.
We are grateful to Singapore Academy of Law (SAL) for putting us in touch with Mark. Mark will be speaking at SAL over the 24th to the 26th of October, including a talk on the 26th on ‘Planning your Future in Future Law: Trends, Tools and Tips’. More information is available here.
This letter is addressed to his younger self in 1977, during his first semester in law school.
I appreciate that law school is a shock and disappointment. Hang in there; law school won’t get much better but think of it as a passport to an interesting career. What you do after graduation will have no resemblance to what you are experiencing now—apart from the time you are spending downtown clerking for the judge. You like that, and you will like being a lawyer, too—especially when you are an Assistant United States Attorney. Think about how excited you will be when you march into federal court and say to the judge, “Good morning, your honor, AUSA Mark A. Cohen appearing on behalf of the United States of America.” That will be a bigger charge than when you found and manage a national firm representing Fortune 500 clients and foreign sovereign nations in bet-the-company litigation. You will make lots of money but that’s never been what really excites you.
But you must first make it through law school—then pass the New York Bar exam (the others will be easy in comparison). I’m not going to bullshit you; you will detest law school apart from clerking. The other students are competitive, generally anti-intellectual, and the teachers don’t have a clue about practice—you know that from working as a law clerk. But just hang in there.
You will start to learn your craft by spending the next three years as a law clerk. That will be the start of your real legal training—not law school. You will hone your professional skills as an AUSA and will love trying cases—that’s what you are interested in doing, right? Private practice will be lucrative, and you will enjoy the business side of it along with the persuasion element of being a lawyer. You will begin to inject other facets of your personality into what you do—your humor, writing and speaking skills, schmoozing, and even creativity. I know it’s hard to imagine now that creativity has anything to do with being a lawyer – but it does! And it will be a big asset and differentiator later on.
I know you don’t like the pigeon-holing associated with law; you are not that kind of kid. You like to be creative, think big, take intellectual risks, and connect dots. Be patient. Learn your craft. Then the rest will come.
Law is not all about drudge work. You will find that out soon enough. It will be an interesting career with lots of twists and turns. Remember what dad will tell you upon your admission to the Bar: “Never compromise your integrity. Once you do, you cannot get it back.”