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25 Things All Young Lawyers Should Know To Avoid Messing Up Their Legal Careers

“If I only knew then what I know now.”
That seems to be the premise of every great memoir (or country song). And that’s true of the legal profession too.
Mistakes are costly. You can lose money, time, or prestige. Depending on your specialty, your clients can lose their freedom, fortunes, or families.
Abby Gordon, a legal recruiter at Lateral Link, sees the same mistakes over and over again. And it wasn’t just time that gave her this perspective:
“I was a paralegal before law school. I took four years between undergrad and law school, so I knew a herd of practicing lawyers when I was still applying to law school. I thought I had a leg up on everyone; I thought I had it all figured out. But in hindsight, I realize that there was a lot I did not know—not in law school and not as I made my way through seven years as an associate with a top international law firm”
That’s what inspired her to list 25 bits of wisdom that she didn’t learn in law school. Here is a sample of her life lessons:
1. “…first-year grades are what matter for securing a summer associate position that will hopefully lead to a more permanent associate position. But for anyone who may look to lateral to another firm or go in-house eventually… second- and third-year law school grades do count. This is especially true for litigators in today’s market. Firms and most companies will ask for your law school transcript when you apply as a lateral attorney. They even on occasion ask for grades from partner candidates. Grades have a tendency to follow you around, so finish strong.”
4. “Law firm prestige does matter. It is certainly not the only consideration, but to lateral to another firm or move to a company, it is very important. You may get much better hands-on experience and training at a smaller firm, but prospective employers usually do not see it this way.”
10. “Understand the various structures of law firms. It may not be a crucial factor for young associates, but you should at least be aware of the differences and the pros and cons of each. For example, lockstep firms may foster more cooperation and less competition among partners but tend to have more institutional clients and may not encourage the more junior associates to learn client development skills. If you enjoy the business side of being part of a law firm and you think you will have an aptitude for client development, you may want to consider a firm with a two-tier partnership track (income partners and equity partners), where you may have a better shot at proving your worth as a business-building partner.”
11. “Do not trust your firm to manage your professional development. They will not. It is not that they are necessarily being shortsighted or indifferent to your well-being, but the reality is that the firm’s priorities are probably not 100% aligned with yours. Perhaps law firms should take greater care in the long-term professional development of their associates (who may be future clients). But until they do, associates must take control of their own professional trajectories, become aware of their options…”
14. “Knowledge of the law is only one side of being an effective and successful lawyer. You must learn the business side of the legal industry as well. Business development is key to law firm survival. The ability to bring in clients is a key element of making partner and making a livelihood as a partner. Unfortunately, many firms fail miserably at teaching you the fundamentals of client development and encouraging this practice. So be prepared to teach yourself if need be (though keep in mind that whether or not your firm involves you in client development efforts may be a sign as to how long-term they view your employment with them).”
20. “Understand that you have a shelf life. Firms are very particular about the class years they are looking to hire. At the moment, the vast majority of litigation openings are for class of 2010, 2011, and 2012. If you are even a mid-level (let alone senior) litigator, you may have a very difficult time making a move. Corporate associates are expected to have a bit more experience before lateraling. Even so, do not wait until you are a seventh or eighth year. You will have far fewer options.”
25. “Be nice to everyone. I cannot emphasize this enough. You never know when you will meet someone again and in what context. We have had candidates not get offers (and rightly so) because they were rude to the receptionist when arriving for an interview. Law firms operate on a hierarchical structure. But when it comes to how you treat other human beings, there is no place for hierarchy.”
For additional words of wisdom, click on the link below.
Source: Above the Law

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