Q&A with Coco Soodek

Coco Soodek is a corporate lawyer at Bryan Cave, where she runs the art law team and its art law blog (www.artlawteam.com). Coco writes about business and law at www.profitandlaws.com and recently published “Birth to Buyout: Law for the Life Cycle of Your Business,” a book on business law for entrepreneurs.

Why did you become a lawyer?

I decided to become a lawyer when I was 9 years old. I dreamt of fighting for constitutional justice in a wood-paneled courtroom. Then, I summered at a big firm and discovered how much I hate writing and reading briefs.  Thankfully, that same summer also I discovered that I love contracts and entrepreneurs!

My favorite job is figuring out how people can figure out how to make money.  Helping my clients realize their dreams, particularly when those dreams are to create something real, with the effect of creating real jobs.

What advice do you have for law students?

  • Really Go To Class. Take risks there; they have no consequences other than to thicken your skin. Don’t play classroom bingo, don’t surf the net, don’t sit in the back.
  • Make Smart Friends. Make friends with the people in your class who are so smart, they intimidate you. Keep those friends forever.
  • Make Dumb Ones, Too. Make friends with at least one idiot – the process of teaching that person will be one of the most useful learning experiences you will have.
  • Make an Outline. Make a long and gut-wrenching outline of your case book, class notes and Gilberts. Going through the process of building a thorough outline that you truly grappled with is the best thing you can do for your career.

How has the practice changed?

The legal profession has changed dramatically since I got into it in 1997, but one change that may be the most consequential is the dwindling libraries.

When I was a young lawyer my firm had a terrific, well-curated library. When stumped, I could run there, search through the shelves, examine the treatises, the indices, and the annotations and find my answers through experimentation and association.  I learned as much from scavenging through the library as from anything else.

Many law firms have started to eliminate the costs of acquiring and maintaining physical books. Most resources are online, but they are behind a pay wall. Today’s lawyer has to fear the meter tick with every click.  These days, without formidable legal libraries in the office, scared young associates who doesn’t yet know what questions to ask (let alone how to find a solution), may find it too hard, too expensive, too time consuming to run down and mine for the answer.

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