General practitioners handle a wide variety of legal problems in large cities, suburban towns, and in rural communities. They may assist small and mid-size businesses with issues of incorporation, contracts, tax matters, employment law, and collections issues, as well as provide special counsel to large businesses. They may serve as the family lawyer for individuals by drafting wills and setting up estate plans; handling tax matters; dealing with divorces, child custody and other family law issues; conducting real estate closings; and providing representation in personal injury or employment law matters.
Most general practitioners work in small practices (five or fewer lawyers) or by themselves. They must have a working knowledge of many different practice areas and must be able to develop a client base, run a small business, and keep up to date on changes to the law. Often they have a well-developed network of more experienced or specialized attorneys to turn for advice. Small firm practitioners are involved in every aspect of firm management and this can be difficult for some lawyers. Others thrive and have the satisfaction of being completely responsible for their own businesses, of establishing their own work hours and lifestyle, and of working closely with their clients on a daily basis.
Students interested in general practice should select courses that give them a broad legal education in basic subject matters and skills.
A student interested in this specialty should take:
Lawyering Skills Course [second semester elective]
Students interested in this practice area should consider including one or more of the following courses as electives.
- Administrative Law
- Advanced Legal Writing
- Business Organizations I
- Client Counseling and Interviewing
- Family Law I
- Introduction to Estate Planning
- Real Estate Transactions
- Tax I
- Tax II
- Trial Advocacy
- Trusts and Estates
These courses deepen or broaden the skills and substantive information that a lawyer in this field needs and also provide advanced courses for students interested in a specialty within this area of practice.
- Advanced Criminal Procedure
- Advanced Substantive Criminal Law
- Civil Procedure II
- Contracts II
- Equal Employment Law
- Insurance Law
- Lawyers as Community Leaders
- Marital Property (for those practicing in Wisconsin)
- Oral Communications
- Torts II
(Note that whether a particular course is scheduled depends on faculty availability and student demand.)
Clinics, Internships, and Externships
Clinical Programs, externships, and other placement projects give hands-on practice experience. The law school has a variety of these opportunities and any of these programs would be beneficial to the student interested in general practice. For a complete listing, see http://law.wisc.edu/academics/clinics/clinicaleducationskillstraining.html.
The Lawyering Skills Program runs a separate program in which selected students are placed in firms in small and mid-sized Wisconsin communities. For more information about this program, see http://law.wisc.edu/academics/lawskills/summerclerkship.html.
Here are some of the full-time faculty who teach or have an interest in this subject area:
In addition to our full-time faculty, the Law School's adjunct faculty members -- prominent practicing lawyers and judges -- bring their specialized knowledge and experience to the classroom.