New Lawyers Practice of Law

Ten Things Every New Lawyer Should Know (Part 2)

ThinkstockPhotos-78291349The following is a guest blog post by Anabella Q. Bonfa, a litigator with Wellman & Warren LLP, and Diane Rifkin, attorney recruiter and CEO at Rifkin Consulting.

Continuing from the most recent CEBblog™ post, here are five more things new lawyers need to know.

  1. Know your place. If you’re the newest lawyer in your firm, others with more seniority and experience expect a certain level of respect. Being arrogant, self-righteous, or correcting senior counsel publicly will make your opinions less favored than using a respectful and thoughtful approach. You’re expected, at least initially, to prove that you can work harder and longer hours to prove yourself. Complaining about the work load, taking long lunches, and expecting to have a hand in deciding what cases you’ll work on will appear overreaching and unappreciative. Perks will come with time and experience.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for input. Few new attorneys ever ask for input or ask how their work can be improved. This is probably because they don’t really want to receive feedback on these issues for fear of being criticized. However, it shows initiative and maturity to ask how you can improve. Also, if you want advice on how to approach a legal task, it’s often helpful to approach your supervisor early with a plan as to how you will attack the legal problem. It’s better to find out if you’re on the right or wrong track early than to waste time doing something the wrong way. The fact that you’re trying to improve is impressive in itself.
  3. Write a handwritten note. Hardly anyone thinks to write a thoughtful, handwritten note to show appreciation for a kind gesture. Before texts and emails, we actually owned pens and stationery! A nicely written note will earn you major points with both supervisors and clients. Electronic communications can seem impersonal and may get buried in the email morass of the recipient’s inbox.
  4. Listen more than you talk. When you’re a new lawyer, there’s a tendency to talk too much and listen too little because you’re trying to impress clients. However, a good lawyer listens to the client and their issues, concerns, and problems and then asks appropriate follow-up questions before offering legal advice. Learn to be a good listener early on in your career and your clients will appreciate you for it. Active listening skills also will help you with negotiations.
  5. Have empathy. Clients are often frightened by being involved in the legal process and may feel very violated. They’re coming to you for legal advice, but showing compassion, being a good listener, and treating them with respect can earn you a client for life.  Many people don’t think that lawyers care about the outcome of the legal issue—do what you can to change this perception of lawyers and you’ll help the profession, and yourself, in the process.

Getting started in your legal career is exciting—and challenging. CEB has many resources to help you, including How-to Guides, CLE programs, books, forms, and discounts. And of course, there are many CEBblog™ posts geared toward new lawyers.

Other CEBblog™ posts you may find useful:

© The Regents of the University of California, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

5 replies on “Ten Things Every New Lawyer Should Know (Part 2)”

Very true list but I would add continuously educate yourself about the firm! There’s so much to learn about the firm’s business and its clients…there’s nothing worse than a newbie that has incredible potential but doesn’t actually understand the firm’s business.

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