While the bar exam marks the end of an attorney’s law school experience, the mantra is true that learning never stops for attorneys. A course commonly referred to as “bridging the gap” may be the first continuing legal education (CLE) course many new lawyers take. In fact, in several jurisdictions, newly admitted lawyers are required to complete an approved bridging the gap program as part of their initial CLE requirements. As a licensed Pennsylvania attorney, I was required to take this course and did so right about the time I found out I had passed the bar exam. At the time, this newly licensed attorney surely did not appreciate the significance of this course. Frankly, I did not understand its purpose, nor did I know what this fictional gap was that I needed to bridge. In hindsight, I do. There is indeed a massive “gap” to be bridged between a green-eyed lawyer, fresh out of law school and having recently passed the bar exam, and her senior boss, entrenched in the practice of law for decades. This gap relates to the skills law students are taught and the skills they will need in practice.
To this end, a common statement more senior attorneys told me in my first couple years of practice was, “Law school doesn’t teach you how to be a lawyer.” While I will refrain from getting too deep into the merits of that statement, it is fairly difficult to argue (yes, even for a lawyer) with the reality that law school cannot possibly teach you every scenario you may find yourself in during your first few years of practice, including some of the gaps that need to be bridged. Unfortunately, neither can a CLE. Therefore, please allow this article to provide advice from “someone who has been there” for one commonly encountered issue many young lawyers will indeed face: What do you do when you find the exact opposite of the answer that an assigning attorney, i.e., your more senior, reputable boss, was expecting you to find? Believe it or not, this is quite an unsettling position to find yourself in, particularly when you are brand new to the practice of law and have not yet established your reputation as that stellar researcher I know that you actually are. But, this is one of the first ways you will learn how to bridge the gap and be a lawyer: you advocate for yourself and your research.