I became a partner at Rudman Winchell over two years ago and I haven’t written a blog since then, so I guess it is about time to write one. Just to set, you know, a good example for the new lawyers. I never really cared about that before, but my daughter is turning four years old next month and setting a good example has been an increasing priority for my wife and me. So this blog is not so much about new developments in the law as it is advice to new attorneys that equally applies to my four-year old daughter. Or vice versa.
- Always be on time. By “on time,” I mean be a little bit early. When the bell rings, be ready to line up.
- Be prepared. There is no substitute for doing the work. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Read, research, practice, pick up your room, repeat. School is just the beginning of learning.
- Jump in the game, offer to lend a hand, take the initiative. Often, the best way to learn is to do it. Jump in the pool. Write that brief. Slide down that slide. Take that deposition. Ride that pony.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help when the pool is too deep, the brief does not make sense, the slide is too fast, the deposition is confusing, or the pony too prancy. One of the benefits of being an associate in a firm is that there tend to be a lot of mentors who would be willing to help if you ask for it.
- Do not blame others for your mistakes. We all forget the half-eaten yogurt under the car seat in the middle of summer from time to time. If you do, own up to it, face it, clean it up, learn from it. To err is human, to cover up is malpractice. Conversely, give credit to others when they deserve credit. If someone does a good job, let them know.
- Sometimes you just have to color outside the lines.
- Be respectful. Let’s face it, lawyers and toddlers both have a reputation for throwing tantrums. Treating witnesses, adverse counsel, court staff, and babysitters with respect usually pays off. It costs you nothing but it will be noticed. Likewise, rude and disruptive behavior will also be noticed. Your reputation is like your lego princess castle set- it takes seemingly forever to build it up but only a second to send it smashing to the floor with one wrong move.
- Control your emotions. This can be difficult at any age. It is natural to get angry when your sibling/friend/dog knocks your Lego castle that took you all day to build off the table or objects to your very reasonable and succinct request for production of documents but that does not justify biting them. Sure they may deserve it, sure, but don’t do it. Never forget that the legal matter you are handling may only take up 5% of your time, but it may well take up 100% of client’s life. You be the lawyer; let the client be emotional.
- Keep up with the tech. There is a lot of it and it can make your life a living #%$@ if you don’t know how to use it. Seriously. Maybe then you can show me how to load my VHS copy of “My Cousin Vinny”– I mean, “To Kill A Mockingbird”– into my iPad since my almost-four-year old daughter just laughs at me when I ask her to do it.