Hallelujah! You’ve passed the bar! You are now an attorney and ready to change the world.
Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of people out there willing to share the tricks of the trade or even pass down a few helpful hints. Thankfully, you’ve got us to provide some key insights before you step foot into that new office.
23 Things New Lawyers Must Know
- Check your expectations. Kathleen Brady, head of a career planning firm with offices in New York and Philadelphia, says this: “Your first job may not be your ‘dream’ job, but it is going to provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to advance towards your ultimate career goals; don’t discount it because it isn’t perfect.”
- Some people don’t really want you to fix things, and they aren’t really in need of a lawyer even though they walked through your doors. Instead, they just want you to listen. Yes, we know you could have gotten a therapy degree with a lot less effort, but let’s face it, people are looking for a decent ear!
- You might be able to attach Esquire to your name, but don’t forget to use your manners. Please and thank you go a long way!
- Look people in the eye and take notes while they are talking to you. This will help you remember while also making them, and their issue, feel important. You will gain their trust this way.
- Everyone’s busy. Offer to help when you can, and respect other people’s time as much as you want them to respect yours.
- Don’t let your online persona be a hindrance to your professional aspirations. If you’ve got embarrassing (or potentially embarrassing) Facebook posts or Tweets floating around, do yourself a favor and clean up your cyberspace act.
- Always look for ways to improve. If you’ve just finished a case, ask the boss how you did. Make sure he knows you’re not looking for compliments; tell him you want guidance and maybe he’ll give it to you!
- While your mentor/boss/supervisor might offer the improvement advice you ask for, don’t forget that he’s not your momma. He’s not going to clean up your messes or take the heat for your mistakes. You’re on your own; it’s your job now.
- Don’t be afraid to give people credit. Sometimes the best answer is one somebody else has. Encourage them and utilize their strengths to build on your own. They’ll be glad to work with you the next time.
- Don’t forget to take time off. This is a stressful venture and the burnout rate can be high. Don’t neglect moments to rest and renew; they’re just as necessary as working hard.
- Communicate with your clients – don’t just tell them things. Communication means they understood your statements, and that’s far better than just hearing what you have to say.
- Make yourself worth it to your clients. Don’t forget that while you’re worrying about your hourly wage, they’re worrying about whether or not you’re worth it.
- Don’t get tunnel vision. Yes, if you want to earn the big bucks, you’ll need to work with clients who are willing to pay for your legal services. However, there might be non-legal alternatives that are a better fit for your prospective client. For example, although Michael A. Ziegler is a bankruptcy and foreclosure attorney, it doesn’t stop him from offering the best solutions for financial stability. He even wrote a blog article about how to avoid foreclosure.
- Life is very much like a puzzle. So, when you’re struggling to put a case together, remember to look at the big picture before trying to put the little pieces in place.
- People like to feel valued. Show up early to meetings and if you’re going to be a tad bit late, call and let people know. Respect them and they’ll respect you!
- Don’t promise the moon and produce smoke. Under-promise and over-deliver–always!
- It’s your job to get all the facts, even when people don’t want to give them to you.
- Ask your clients what success will look like. Don’t guess. They know what they are expecting from you; get it out of them before you even start working.
- Don’t just tell, teach–in everything you do. You went to school a long time and you’ve got valuable information to share. Don’t hoard it.
- You’ll probably need to carry someone else’s briefcase before you get to the “good” stuff in this profession. Everybody has to start somewhere and that’s usually near the bottom. Don’t get discouraged – realize there’s nowhere to go but up!
- Answer and return calls promptly. Don’t shut people down; help them figure out how they can get the job done.
- Most of the time your client is always right. Figure out how to deal with the other moments.
- Keep your staff happy. There are people that know more than you; let them help you. Don’t be a smarty pants or a kiss-up.
All You Need is Here
If you adhere to these 23 tips, you’ll be better off than a large number of your colleagues. Everyone wants to be treated as though there is intrinsic value within. You have the power to assure each client that you care. Don’t miss your chance to make a real difference.