I’ve been practicing law for almost three years and I’ve learned so much. There is much more to learn, of course, but I’d like to share with young and/or new attorneys a few tips I think have helped me grow as an attorney. My list is extremely short and I know there are so many other tips that could be added. I encourage other more experienced attorneys to share their personal tips with younger and less seasoned attorneys.
1 — Take the time to observe other attorneys. When I was a law clerk and an intern I had the opportunity to sit in courtrooms and observe other attorneys in action. I was able to see what to do and what not to do. Since I started practicing law, I don’t have a lot of free time to observe as much as I would like but have found several ways I can get some observation time with my busy schedule.
When I go to court to file something and I have an extra 30 minutes of free time, I will pop into the assignment office and ask if there are any interesting cases going on or sometimes I may even ask a sheriff. One of my favorite things to do is to support my colleagues and spend some time watching them and the other side. As a new attorney, I believe observing others is a great way to improve the craft of practicing law.
2 — Attend trainings, seminars, panel discussions, CLEs, etc. There are a lot of inexpensive or free legal trainings and CLEs offered throughout the year. One of the things I appreciate the most about attending a training class or a CLE are the materials that are distributed. There have been occasions where I’ve used a notebook or a packet I picked up during a training class to help me draft a motion or a pleading.
Another great thing about attending a training class or a CLE is the fact that I have an opportunity to meet other attorneys and judges in the area. I am of the opinion the more people I meet in my profession the better chances I have at becoming a successful attorney.
3 — Seek out constructive feedback. I’ve heard judges say it numerous times: “My door is open so feel free to come in to chambers to talk.” There have been several occasions when I’ve reached out to a judge, after the time for appeal has lapsed, to get his/her opinion about my performance. The feedback has been invaluable and I’m confident that I’ve grown as a result.
For example, I speak pretty fast, especially when I get on a roll. A judge finally told me during one of my follow-up sessions in chambers that I needed to slow down. My 20-minute meeting with that particular judge has improved my performance in the courtroom and I will never forget that advice.