A partner at my law firm likes to joke that attorneys spend their first five years practicing law in abject fear. This is mostly because there is so much to learn and—not to get too Rumsfeldian on you—young attorneys don’t know what they don’t know.
Coming into my fourth year of practicing law, I am already starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. After a few years, I’ve had the opportunity to gain experience with the different facets of cases and areas of law, so that there is a level of familiarity that I simply didn’t have when I started. I have also developed a “toolbox” of tried and true resources that make my life easier.
Here is a list of some of my favorite resources that would be on my wish list if I was starting out as a young civil litigator:
Pleading Causes of Action – I hope you have not only heard of this book but that you already have it in your library. My firm has a couple of copies but I liked it so much that I bought a copy for myself. It comes in handy when drafting complaints, dispositive motions and even appellate briefs. If my kid went to law school, this would be his graduation present.
Maryland Rules Commentary – I was lucky enough to take a Maryland Civil Procedure class in law school where this was used as the textbook. It is a wonderful compliment to the Maryland Rules. It has a treasure trove of commentary and annotations that have proved to be invaluable to me over the years.
Maryland Civil Pattern Jury Instructions – This is probably the most in-demand book at my firm. On a weekly basis, there is a firm-wide email from someone trying to track this book down, and for good reason. What better resource than the book that is used to draw up jury instructions in civil cases? It also provides a great starting point when crafting a case or even in defending a case.
Discovery Problems & Solutions, Maryland – Discovery can be the most contentious aspect of any given case. This book has always been a great resource for me when handling discovery issues.
Here are some mobile and desktop applications that I use on daily basis that I wish I had since day one:
Dropbox – This allows me to share files between all of my computers and devices. Nothing is better than having my entire case file in my iPad at a deposition.
Evernote – This app allows me to neatly organize research and notes on all of my devices. I have not even begun to scratch the surface of its capabilities but I am a huge fan.
Productivity Apps – I didn’t start using an electronic task manager until last year and am amazed that I ever lived without one. There are tons of apps on the market that allow you to organize your workload, and some even allow you to share tasks with your team. I use OmniFocus but there are many others that are worth a look, including Wunderlist, Todoist and Asana.
Scanning Apps – Assuming most, if not all, young attorneys have smartphones, scanning apps are extremely useful. The apps on the market today allow you to scan a document into a PDF with the same quality of the big clunky scanner at your office. (It is also something I recommend to clients who don’t have the means to fax or scan documents to me.) I use the Scanner Pro app for iPhone, but there are several options out there.
PDF Creator/Reader – As the legal world goes more and more paperless, a quality PDF application is also a must. I use Adobe Acrobat on my office computer. It allows me to view PDFs, obviously, but it also has several tools that are invaluable to me, including Bates numbering, redaction, comments and mark up tools and, my favorite, OCR recognition (this makes the text searchable in the PDF). While a lot of its functionality is utilized by my support staff, I still rely on it all the time.
I am sure I am preaching to the choir with many of the resources listed above. But you’d be surprised how often I come across attorneys young and old who do not use them. Personally, I’m always looking for new resources to add to my “toolbox.” If you have any recommendations that are not listed above, please feel free to contact me or comment below.