By: Holden Fulco
Recently I had the pleasure of conducting a phone interview with Mr. Robert Denton, a lawyer practicing in Tulsa, OK. This summer I did intern work with Mr. Denton and learned quite a bit about what lawyers in the real world actually do on a daily basis. I have been considering a career in law and thought interviewing Mr. Denton would be a great opportunity to get his thoughts on the job market and communication in the workplace.
I started our interview by asking Mr. Denton to share a bit of background information about himself. He is from Tulsa originally but obtained his law degree from the University of California at Berkley. He then practiced as a Deputy DA for 6 years in California before moving back to Tulsa to start his own legal practice. Mr. Denton currently practices in several different areas of the law including drug offenses, DUI, medical malpractice, divorce, and personal injury. The wide variety of cases he takes allowed me to get a first-hand look at how a lawyer handles himself and his clients this summer. It truly was a great learning experience.
After introducing himself, I asked Mr. Denton a series of questions about advice he could give to a student who is interested in law but hasn’t made his/her mind up yet about going to law school. His biggest suggestion was to make sure to get some experience with the real thing by either getting an internship or working in a law office. Every practice is different, so one internship may not be enough to get you a full picture of the job. We talked about the job market for lawyers right now and Mr. Denton made clear that it is a career path that takes a large financial commitment and is a saturated market right now. This means there are many more lawyers than jobs available. However, he did say that being in the top 25 of your class would ensure you have a good chance at being hired. Other advice he gave is to make sure you have some understanding of business practice and organization. He noted that too many law school grads end up having to start their own practice and have no idea how to manage a business.
The last part of our interview consisted of me asking Mr. Denton about communication within the field of law and how important it is on a daily basis. He made it clear that his office and most others keep a very professional environment. He says that clients expect a professional image at all times, and that a lawyer who seems to be not well spoken isn’t someone who appears to be an expert and professional within his field, so it is vastly important first off to maintain a professional appearance and rapport with clients in order to maintain their confidence in the person they are hiring. In the case of communication, it is really the entire job in quite a literal sense. A lawyer must deal every single day with prosecutors, clients, judges, potential client meetings, etc. Mr. Denton calls it “the essence of our practice” and says that good sales skills are essential to gaining clients. He says one must be a storyteller, selling your client in order to make people comfortable with your side of the story, especially when a jury is involved. On the side of written communication, Mr. Denton made it clear that professional emails are incredibly important, as is paper mail, surprisingly. In his belief, people feel more taken care of when they can physically hold a document instead of just receiving a file on a computer, and it just gives that extra level of service to a customer.
Overall, from this interview I learned that law is a very diverse field that requires your complete mental and financial investment in order for it to be a successful career choice. One should take the time to gain some experience with the field and decide to enter the field with a better reason for doing so other than “it pays well” (because a lot of times it doesn’t). I also learned how important professional etiquette and communication skills, both written and oral, are in this profession. I believe I have gained valuable knowledge through this interview that I will use when considering my future career goals.
A special thank you goes out to Mr. Robert Denton for taking the time out of his busy schedule to do this interview with me.