Top 12 Tips For New LawyersTed Burgess
Congratulations on joining the ranks of the legal profession! Now, it’s time for you to learn all of the things they don’t teach you in law school – the important things. Here are the 12 most important tips that I can give you to make your transition from legal novice to seasoned professional as smooth as possible.
- Listen three times as much as you talk. People around you who have been in the system know things that will come in handy. You don’t have to know the answers to everything – in fact, you’ll learn more from those around you than you ever did in class.
- Keep your staff happy at all costs. Without their support, you will find that you are working 10 times as hard and getting half as much done.
- Sometimes, you will be the one doing the legwork while someone else is getting the credit. This is just part of the process. To get to the good stuff, you’ve got to be willing to spend some time in the trenches. Those people you helped will be valuable allies later on down the road.
- It isn’t as important to tell someone the answer as it is to teach them why the answer is correct. This makes the recipient feel like you care about them because you took time out of your day to give a full explanation, and it will help you gain a reputation for intelligence as well as compassion.
- When a client or colleague is in your office, you are a host. Make sure you take care of them. This is all part of the reputation-building process. People are more likely to recommend someone they like – be that person.
- Be early for your appointments. There is nothing more inconsiderate than showing up late or wasting someone else’s time. If you are going to be late, call ahead and explain the situation. This shows the person you are having the meeting with that you value their time. Everyone likes to be valued.
- Understand how your client thinks. Your client cares about the value you bring in relationship to your cost. Don’t base your rates on what others around you think you should be charging – base them on what your client base is comfortable with.
- Take time to relax. All work and no play makes Jack an ineffective worker. You need to remain in balance to keep your mind sharp. Don’t neglect a vacation, and try not to take your work home with you.
- You don’t always have the best answer. If someone else does, give them credit for it. The client will get the best value, and you will have gained the trust of your colleague, who will likely want to work with you again.
- Manage your online image. Your clients and colleagues know how to Google you, and they will. Make sure your professional profiles are professional and your personal profiles are tasteful. If you post something that is polarizing on your social media channels, you risk alienating potential clients and coworkers.
- Sometimes a client doesn’t need you in the capacity of a lawyer. There is a modicum of trust in your position, and your client might just need someone they trust to talk to. You don’t always have to be making a case: Sometimes, just listening is enough.
- Your job is to communicate and communication is a two-way street. If no one understands what you are saying, you aren’t communicating. Use clear, concise language. Just because you have a huge vocabulary doesn’t mean everyone else does. Keep it simple.
Follow this advice and you’ll quickly find yourself in demand while your classmates wallow in the trenches for years on end.
By Ted Burgess