All too often, young lawyers are afraid to ask questions out of fear of looking stupid. However, asking questions is the only way you’ll know you’re doing the job right. Attorneys want associates to show that they’re engaged, and asking questions up front is a far better option than turning in bad work product. No one expects young lawyers to know everything, and going down the wrong path because you were afraid to ask questions wastes everyone’s valuable time.
Every year, law school grads enter the legal industry, looking to forge successful careers as associates. While your early years as an attorney are undeniably an exciting time, they can also feel overwhelming.
The good news is that being a young attorney doesn’t have to be a stressful experience if you know the do’s and don’ts of associate success. If you follow these 10 tips, you’ll be well on your way to a successful career in the legal industry.
Asking questions goes beyond just seeking clarification on assignments. It’s understandable for young attorneys to want to think they’re capable of anything, but it’s important to know your limits and realize when an assignment is beyond your capabilities. This is the perfect opportunity to ask for help and guidance, so the work gets done correctly and you become a better lawyer in the process.
Some senior attorneys are good at giving young lawyers feedback, but others are not. If you’re not getting the feedback you want or need to make you a better lawyer, don’t hesitate to ask for it. Feedback is crucial to improving your work in the future, and seeking it out shows the people you work with not only that you care about the case, but about the success of your career as a whole.
If you ask for feedback, you have to be prepared for the fact that it won’t all be positive. Young attorneys tend to be a highly intelligent bunch, and hearing that you’re doing something wrong can be hard to swallow, especially on the heels of accomplishments like graduating from law school and passing the bar exam. As unpleasant as it may be, constructive criticism is one of the best ways to learn, and when you learn to not take it personally, will be one of the best tools you have for becoming a better attorney.
Law school may be over, but the learning never stops. The most successful lawyers are constantly seeking out new information and learning opportunities. Whether it comes from formal CLE courses or informal interactions with senior attorneys, absorbing new knowledge should always be one of a young attorney’s top priorities.
Too many attorneys have a reputation for poor time management, but it doesn’t have to be the case for you. Learning good time-management skills early on will set you up for a long and successful legal career. Many young lawyers falter in their early assignments simply because they failed to manage their time well, not because they were incapable or lacked knowledge. Law is unquestionably a demanding profession, and learning to juggle those demands as soon as possible is crucial to success.
When you’re a young lawyer learning a new job and trying to adjust to new demands on your time, it’s tempting to put your head down and retreat into your own world. What you need to be doing, however, is the exact opposite. Building a successful career requires growing your network of colleagues and contacts. That means ungluing your eyes from your phone or computer screen and engaging in conversations with those around you. You never know when you’ll meet that one person who is pivotal in your success as a lawyer.
It’s easy to feel stressed out and overwhelmed when you’re staring down important client deadlines, but that’s no excuse for incivility. Building a reputation for being courteous and respectful to your colleagues and opponents alike will go a long way. No matter how annoyed, exhausted, or overworked you may be, try not to let it show.
In many ways, being a young attorney is just like any other job – the little things matter. If you want to be viewed as a professional, act like one. It may sound obvious, but professional behavior such as being on time, dressing appropriately for the situation, and responding promptly to phone calls and emails sends a message that you’re taking the job seriously and want to succeed.
It’s easy to let a major project monopolize your time, but it’s important even in those moments to not lose perspective on why you’re there. Individual successes are important, but so is building experience and learning the ins and outs of the legal industry. Even when you’re focusing on the now, always be thinking ahead to where you want your career to go and how you plan to get there.
Knowing the legal industry do’s and don’ts is crucial to success as a young lawyer. At Veritext, we’re committed to providing young attorneys with the tools they need to succeed. Contact us today to learn more about how Veritext can help you get the most out of your legal career.