John F. Shonkwiler, a partner at Novack and Macey, concentrates his practice in complex commercial litigation matters, principally those involving contract actions, business torts, partnership disputes and intellectual property issues. He took some time to answer a few of our questions.
How has the practice of law changed from when you first got into it?
The three biggest changes in private legal practice since I started in 1998: e-mail, e-mail and e-mail. E-mail has dramatically changed: lawyers, judges and clients’ communications in the work place; lawyers’ lives away from the office – as everyone is now reachable 24/7 via BlackBerry; and discovery, by making infinitely more complicated the process of gathering and producing documents. I think the bench and bar is only beginning to adapt to these changes and, to make matters worse, our e-mail habits and technology are changing faster than we are adapting.
What advice do you have for law students?
Don’t go to law school unless you’re excited about it. Tuition is expensive and good jobs are hard to come by. If you’re not highly motivated to work hard, your grades will likely suffer. In this economy, if you don’t get top grades – especially in your first year – you’ll find yourself behind the eight ball in terms of having any shot at getting the job you want.
What are the challenges of maintaining a work-life balance?
As I said in response to No. 1 – with the BlackBerry, you’re expected to be available and responsive to routine work-related correspondence on virtually a 24/7 schedule. This makes it next to impossible to take a real vacation.