5 Pieces of Advice for New Attorneys
#1 Don’t take it personally.
When a client comes to you, they are more than likely going through an extremely difficult time. Confusion, uncertainty, and fear – especially about the legal process – are common feelings. And, keep in mind, the outcome of whatever situation you are helping them through is going to have a real effect on their future. Not knowing what lies ahead can oftentimes be the scariest part!
Try to maintain some boundaries between your work and your personal life, and even when tension and emotions get the best of someone, remember that you should not take it personally.
#2 The attorney you see as your enemy today, may need to be your friend tomorrow.
Although it is your job to fight for your client – whether in the courtroom or from the comfort of your office – that doesn’t mean you have to go toe-to-toe with every attorney who crosses your path. Even when you are on opposite sides of a case, maintaining a cordial working relationship with your adversary is critical, especially when the need arises (and it will arise) for you to ask them for professional courtesy.
A little kindness and respect can go a long way.
#3 Know Your Audience.
As an attorney, you will wear many hats – educator, advocate, courtroom gladiator, and sometimes even a shoulder to cry on. The hat you wear will determine many things, such as your approach and demeanor, and it’s always important to know your audience. Knowing your audience will be key to your success not only with your clients but also with your coworkers, the courts, or opposing counsel.
By knowing your audience, you can respond and deliver information in a way that’s well-received.
#4 Be prepared, but don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Take the time to observe the attorneys and support staff around you. Learn the processes and procedures of your office. Read local rules and statutes so you can ask informed and educated questions. Read pleadings start to finish, and make sure you know the relevant facts and issues, before you ever discuss a case with your supervising attorney, client, or opposing counsel.
Be resourceful. Take the steps to educate and inform yourself first, but don’t be afraid to ask questions and take advantage of learning from those around you too.
#5 Define your Win.
What your client defines as a win might not be what you define as a win. Your expectations are based on your knowledge of the law and procedures of court, but that may not always match your client’s expectations. Just because you didn’t achieve exactly what the client wanted does not mean you lost. Every client and every case is different, and that means every win will be different, too. While a win can look different from case to case, you can still focus on the factors that should be consistent throughout such as fairness and quality representation.
A win looks different for everyone, and fairness is subjective.
More advice for new attorneys available on Forbes Legal Council.