Tips for young lawyers for a fulfilling career

Paul Mark Sandler
BridgeTower Media Newswires

Among tips I offer young lawyers are ones that deal with conduct in the office and staying current with the law.

Conduct yourself professionally in the office

Presenting yourself in a professional manner at the office is critical. Be enthusiastic about your work and the people around you. When given assignments, smile, be gracious and accept the work with alacrity. Do not turn down work unless necessary or because of office protocol. Treat partners and supervisors with respect.

The partners or supervisors will frequently approach you with questions or tasks they may not have time to research or resolve themselves. Treat these assignments with attention and care. Do not assume supervisors will check your work or correct legal mistakes you make. Even if they are reviewing your work, do the necessary research, focus on the question or issue, and offer the answer to the very best of your ability.

Do not be afraid to ask questions. Many senior lawyers would rather have you ask a question than redo hours of work. You are both on the same team representing the client. If on a deadline for another attorney, ask for clarification.

Ask when the project is due and in what final form it should be. Comply with the deadline or ask for an extension before the last day.

Before you submit your work, proofread — and then proofread again. Sometimes reviewing a day or two after writing something is the best way to catch mistakes.

Be a team player and offer to assist a colleague who is looking for help with a project. You may need the favor returned someday.

From time to time, shut down your electronic devices. Leave your office and speak to colleagues. Participate in office activities. Even in today’s world of electronic communication, you do not want to be known for sending excellent emails but being unable to communicate in person. Cultivate the art of conversation. Look people in the eye and give a firm handshake.

Remember to dress appropriately for the occasion. Consider with whom you are meeting. Certainly some occasions require more formal attire and others less.

Learn from your mistakes, as we all should. As you strive to perform your work excellently, you will make mistakes. When you do, be proactive by acknowledging them, learning from them and moving on. Acknowledging your mistakes demonstrates you understand the significance of your error, are open to constructive criticism and accept the professional responsibility that lawyers bear.

Seek knowledge and stay current with the law

There are limitless resources to improve your mind. Read and reread the Rules and Statutory Provisions Governing Your Practice; Rules of Procedure: State and Federal; Rules of Appellate Practice: State and Federal; U.S. Code: Rules of Civil and Criminal Procedure; the Discovery Guidelines of the Courts; and the Rules of Professional Conduct for Lawyers.

Keep current on legal developments by setting aside a regular time to catch up on your legal reading. Consider reading periodicals such as the ABA Journal and national legal journals (e.g., The American Lawyer and National Law Journal). Attend CLE programs to help you become a better lawyer.

Discover the Inns of Court, an organization that meets monthly for dinner and programs relating to law, and become a member in your jurisdiction. You will learn much and acquire new friends.
Membership comprises associate members (young lawyers), barristers (senior lawyers) and masters of the bench (“oldtimers”).

Webinars are another excellent way to keep current on legal developments. Have lunch with a few colleagues and watch one.

Remember, keeping current with developments in the law also involves keeping current with changes in the rules of court.

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Paul Mark Sandler, trial lawyer and author, can be reached at pms@shapirosher.com.

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