10 Tips for novice lawyers

According to the ABA Journal, the leading magazine of the American Bar Association, the legal profession today is not the most desirable for Americans. It is far behind the dozens of the most popular and does not even enter the first fifty of the “Top professions in the United States,” giving way to a manicurist, massage therapist, or repair mechanic.

High-stress levels, slow career progression, and other circumstances make a lawyer’s career less attractive. Over the year, lawyers have moved from 31st to 51st places, despite the fact that there is a lot of money in the profession. So, in 2012, the average salary of an American lawyer was $ 113,530 per year (before taxes), and in the last two years, the market has only grown.

Nevertheless, thousands of applicants still prefer law schools. After graduation, the lucky ones get the coveted job in the company. And this is where the fun begins. How to become a true professional, to move up the career ladder and not get lost among colleagues? The former partner of one of the largest American law firms Foster Pepper PLLC, Grover Cleveland, has published a whole book, “Swimming Lessons For Baby-Sharks”,  where he tells how a novice lawyer should behave in a company. 

1. Communicate with more experienced colleagues in the same way as with clients.

The priority for a novice lawyer is to facilitate the work of his more experienced colleagues. If a novice builds relations with them in the same way as with clients, this will help not only build relationships within the company but also acquire valuable skills in working with clients. To begin with, you can learn to predict the needs of colleagues and independently find where help is needed, without waiting until they ask about it.

2. Get a mentor (it’s quite a challenge!)

Usually, more experienced employees control a novice lawyer. But if you want these people to help you become stronger as a specialist, you will have to try hard. The best way to encourage others to help you grow professionally is to demonstrate good results and a desire to learn. Most likely, if your potential teacher believes that you can make his life more comfortable, he will gladly teach you how to cope with difficult work. Helping your mentor grow your career is another good strategy that will pay off.

3. Say ‘Yes’ more often

Even if you are overwhelmed with work, do not immediately refuse to colleagues who come to you with a task – next time, they can find someone more accommodating. However, it’s not worth taking everything at once, preferring the quantity to quality. All you need to do is learn how to negotiate. Thank your colleague for deciding to entrust the work to you, tell them that you are already conducting some projects, offer to start work on a new task within a few days (often because of the time factor, they’ll need to transfer the project to someone else). Find out what part of the work needs to be done right away and what can wait. However, if we are talking about a colleague with whom you plan to work closely further – gather your strength and try to get down to business without delay.

4. Do not chat

Perhaps listening to office gossip, you can find out a lot of useful things, but you should not dissolve them yourself. Your words will surely reach the person involved in the story and cause you trouble. Be careful and be with posts on social networks.

Chat lovers are unlikely to inspire the trust of both colleagues and clients, but the ability to listen carefully and keep your mouth shut will only play into your hands.

5. You must see, not hear

During meetings with clients, it is better to remain silent before you haven’t been asked about anything.  At the initial stage of your career, your goal is to study, and the best thing you can do is carefully explore the nuances of issues that interest the client, adopt the working methods of colleagues and provide them with all possible assistance. Often, lawyers with little work experience begin to tell the client too many details of the solution to his question, stuffing their price. This is absolutely superfluous and most likely will not help you to gain respect.

You should not contradict a colleague in front of the client – all issues can be discussed face to face after the meeting.

6. Communicate by the rules

Do not neglect formalities. In correspondence, proceed from the fact that everything you write will go directly to the client. Most often, this does not happen, but it is unlikely that your colleagues will like to spend time correcting letters.

When composing letters, start with a greeting, write clearly and meaningfully, point to all attachments in the body of the message. And check if you spelled the name of the recipient correctly.

7. Dress accordingly

Most people understand what it means to dress appropriately. However, remember that part of your job is to be persuasive, especially if you think you look too young. To do this, you must use all possible methods, and your appearance should only help in achieving the goal.

You may not look like a Joe Jamail but look like a person who takes several hundred dollars an hour for his work.

8. Do not go last

If you are still busy building your reputation, don’t come first and don’t leave last, this is unlikely to help impress someone you can rely on. But if you work around the clock – you can unobtrusively report it.

9. Discuss questions in person

When you receive assignments from colleagues, try to discuss the details in person. People are always more willing to interact with those who they know in person, not only ‘virtually’. Also, a personal discussion will always help you better in understanding what is required from you.

10. The result is more important than time spent.

Spending working hours is just the minimum of what is required. Focus on the result, not the hours spent. Do not be afraid to work more than expected – your efforts will not be wasted.