It’s wrong to assume that you can find all the answers you need in a book or electronic resource. Practicing law is more than just knowing the law (or where to find it) and the rules of evidence. It’s more than knowing how to apply law to facts and make compelling arguments. We learn much of that in law school, yet we are missing something that most employers are seeking – experience.
Experience takes time, so for those of us with very limited experience, here are some helpful tips on who to contact when you don’t know the answer.
Supervisor, boss or mentor: Many firms and Bar organizations have some type of mentorship program. Mentorship programs, while well-meaning, can sometimes be like blind dates: You get paired up with someone based on perceived compatibility, and sometimes it works but sometimes it doesn’t. If you find a seasoned, reputable attorney who likes you and is willing to help you out, then you have found your mentor.
Attorneys recognized as authorities in their areas of law: These are the attorneys who are frequently speaking at CLEs. Many times, they are willing to stay afterward to chat and field questions. Take advantage of this captive audience and share some of the difficulties you may be having about a particular case.
Seasoned reputable attorneys: You will frequently find many seasoned reputable attorneys at bar association events. I have met a lot of attorneys who love to share how much they know about a particular area of law. Take advantage of this captive audience to bounce some ideas around or ask some questions about cases you are working on. As much as people say they don’t want to talk about work at social events, many of them do anyway. Some attorneys just can’t help themselves.
Law school friends: Many of your law school friends were scattered to the wind after law school. They have landed at top law firms, small law firms, solos and clerkships or are waiting tables, bartending and doing doc reviews until something better comes along. The friends who have law-related jobs can be great resources of information about process, procedure, judges and other attorneys depending on where they work.
Law clerks and court clerks: Every jurisdiction in Maryland is different. The way pleadings and motions are processed through the clerk’s office may be different depending on the jurisdiction. While it is important to be familiar with each court’s Case Differentiated Management Plan, there are other vital bits of information that may not be included. If you find clerks that are particularly helpful in a jurisdiction, make sure you get their name so you can ask for him or her next time you call. And always be appreciative for their help.
Local attorneys: Attorneys who primarily practice in one geographic location are great sources of information about how a particular jurisdiction operates. They can provide useful insights about various judges and prosecutors that can be helpful in advising your client and making informed decisions.
Email listservs: Some list serves are more active than others. If you join an active list serve, you will find that other attorneys share many of the same questions. Even if you do not ask questions, you can learn a lot just by reading the responses.
Do you have other helpful tips you would like to share?