Learning to practice law can feel very much like learning to play a new game. We attend law school where we read the rules and discuss them in class. We have opportunities to observe and provide assistance to attorneys in the act of practicing law. Then, we graduate law school and pass an exam that allows us to practice law. Once the state bar has admitted us to practice law, we are now allowed to enter the legal arena as a player in the game.
Many of us who graduate from law school and are admitted to practice law become eligible to be attorneys at law firms. Unfortunately, there are many of us who go undrafted and are unable to secure jobs with law firms. I was one of those eligible attorneys who went undrafted.
As a relatively new practicing attorney, I feel like an undrafted rookie free agent playing for his own expansion team. Since I did not get drafted out of law school, I decided to add a new team to the league so that I could play. I am certainly new to the game and I am still learning all the rules. There are lots of rules to learn – rules of evidence, civil rules of procedure, local rules, unwritten rules, rules specific to an area of practice and on and on. Few people can read a rulebook and immediately know how to play a game and play it well. I am still learning how the game is played and putting my playbook together. All that takes time.
You may be reading this and working as a low level clerk trying to find an attorney position, or working as a contract attorney on a document review assignment, or an associate attorney lost in a big firm, or an up and coming attorney trying to make a name for yourself. Whatever your position and wherever you are starting, continue to strive to be better. I encourage all of you to continue to develop the art of practicing law and build your playbook.
If you want to play the game well, you have to play by the rules; you have to know the rules. The more you practice, the more familiar you become with the game and the rules. If you are new to the game, it’s inevitable you will make “rookie mistakes,” but don’t let those mistakes discourage you from practicing. Learn from those mistakes and become a better attorney for it.