A letter to a law school graduate

Dear recent law school graduate:

Congratulations!  You have completed your law school education, have walked across that stage, received your diploma and are most likely gearing up for a summer of studying for the bar exam.

This is a really exciting time and a rite of passage for any attorney.  Soon you will be in the world of Bar Bri and practice exams and studying.

After the bar exam, most of you will start your legal careers, either with a law firm, or a clerkship, or working with some sort of governmental agency.  And most of you will be excited for these new challenges.  Please trust me, there will be challenges.

When it comes to the economy and available legal employment opportunities, I do not envy you. We all know that it is a tough market out there.  Legal jobs are scarce and the competition is brutal, but keep your head up.  The toughest legal job to find will be your first one.  All you need is one offer.  I remember the stack of rejection letters that sat on my coffee table years ago.  I also remember when I got my first offer (thanks judge Murdock) and the excitement I felt to start my career.  It would do a lot of attorneys good if they remembered how hard it was at the beginning.  We forget sometimes, as if we never struggled in court or with a client or to find a job.

Throughout your career, remember why you went to law school and why you wanted to become a lawyer.  Whether it was to change the world or become a judge or run for office, just remember.  This can easily get lost in the transition from law student to attorney at law.  We have enough jaded attorneys in our midst.  Don’t become one of them.  Your goals may change, but enjoy what you do.

Being a good lawyer requires a lot of work and a lot of sacrifice.  There are no shortcuts.  I wish I could provide some savvy advice or pearls of wisdom that will guide you through your legal career.  It is different for everyone, but I will give it a shot.

1.  Protect your reputation, with the Court, with your colleagues, and with opposing counsel.  You may switch employers, but you will never be able to leave your reputation.

2.  Find a mentor (or three).  Find another attorney that you can talk with and ask “stupid” questions.  Sometimes the question is actually stupid or easily accessible, but if they are a true mentor, they will help guide you (and keep you away from Bar Counsel).

3. Never co-mingle funds.  There are a lot of things that an attorney can do to get in trouble with the Attorney Grievance Commission, but, in my opinion and based on a very unscientific review of past AGC cases (those I peruse in The Daily Record), it seems that co-mingling funds = disbarment.

4.  Balance work and life.  It sounds easy, but it’s not.

5.  Have fun.  I still get excited when I gear up for a big case or a hearing.  My transactional friends love closing the big deal. You will spend a lot of time at work, try and make the best of it.

6. If you plan to litigate in Maryland, buy Pleading Causes of Action in Maryland.  All of the causes of action in Maryland in one book, who knew?

I am sure other attorneys will have more advice or war stories to share.  In the meantime, congratulations.  Just remember, after the bar exam, strap in and try to enjoy the roller coaster ride.

5 thoughts on “A letter to a law school graduate

  1. Mr. Siri, I really hate to be nitpicky, however, if one is to write a column for print, one must use proper grammar.

    “Find another attorney that you can talk with and ask “stupid” questions. Sometimes the question is actually stupid or easily accessible, but if they are a true mentor, they will help guide you (and keep you away from Bar Counsel).”

    This is improper. Can you figure out why?

  2. Use of the plural “they” with the singular “mentor” is grammatically incorrect.

  3. Really, Nancy? You took the time to comment on a grammatical error? Nothing more substantive? Your comment didn’t add anything, and you just come off as snarky and petty, whether you intended to or not.

    Anyway, additional advice – keep in touch with good friends from law school, they will cheer your success, commiserate with your disappointments, and stick up for you when you aren’t around!

  4. Nancy, cool it. Yours isn’t perfect, either. For instance, there is no gender-neutral pronoun in English, so your use of “one” is incorrect.

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