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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.

4 comments

  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.