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From staff to supervisor

One of the things they do not teach you in law school is how to be a supervisor. Yet many young lawyers will find themselves in a supervisory position early on — like me.

I began working at Bodie, Dolina, Smith and Hobbs PC as a law clerk in 2006. I had been one of the “staff” for almost two years; that is the role I knew and understood. In 2009, after a judicial clerkship, I returned to the firm as an associate attorney.

I joined a team with a senior attorney, several paralegals, legal assistants, law clerks and interns. I knew how to take direction, but how would I be at giving it?

I can distinctly remember that first day. I sat down and looked around my office. I was no longer in a cubicle. I had two large windows and a massive desk. I had filing cabinets, a bookshelf and two chairs facing my desk. I also had a staff who needed me delegate to them, to organize them and to work with them to accomplish our department’s objectives. I had to be a leader.

But, I reminded myself, at 26, I was younger than most of the people on my team.  Some had been at the firm for over a decade. Why would they listen to me? I did not know the first thing about what I was doing. Who was I to lead anyone?

In the beginning, I kept my head low. I focused first and foremost on learning how to do my job. In those early months, I found delegating awkward. I profusely apologized when I assigned a mundane task like filing or copying. When something was done improperly, I agonized over how to address it.

More than two years later, I can say, with confidence, you get over it. You find your niche, your confidence, your role. I now recognize what it means to be a member of team. We all have a role to play and that includes me. I would be doing my team, and ultimately my clients, a disservice by not stepping up and taking my role as a supervisor by the horns.

I have learned when to be stern, when to be compassionate, when to be direct, when to share in a laugh, when to be a friend, when to be humble and when to be a leader.

Most importantly, I have learned why they do not teach you how to be a supervisor in law school. There is no magical formula for being an effective supervisor. You simply have take each day as an opportunity to learn and to become better.


  1. sarah , love the perspective and your help .

  2. Great article! How true!!!

  3. Delegating can be difficult. I need to grab the bull by the horns!!!

  4. Excellent article, Sarah. Maybe our alma mater should consider adding a mandatory course on basic principles of business (including management and marketing) to its curriculum? I can think of a few adjunct professors that would be perfect for the job.