I have been thinking a lot lately about what young lawyers would benefit from reading. Then a few days ago, I met a friendly journalist and professor. In my search for answers, she told me that not only do our stories have value, but we are our stories.
I have a lot of stories about being a young lawyer! The most significant ones involve mistakes and how to move past them. They don’t so much involve the law or substantive practice; that’s basically the dressing. The real stories are the life lessons, not the legal ones.
We all make mistakes at work. But every mistake we make in legal practice feels so serious. That’s good, it means we care. But the thing about being a young lawyer is that you may not always know the difference between a big mistake and a small one.
For example, I recall how during my first year of practice one of my subpoenas was served to the wrong entity. I panicked. I threw it into the deepest drawer of my desk and put my head down until I could collect myself. I don’t recall how long that took. I didn’t know that this happens all the time, and its not a big deal. I could just issue a new one. But if I hadn’t talked about it with other lawyers, I never would have known.
We are paid to take on the stress and problems of our clients, and we are only human. You may not have a blog, but you are probably a member of a bar association. You may have other lawyers in your office or office space. Share your stories. I believe by discussing our stressors, our concerns, and, yes, our mistakes, it lightens the burden.
You are probably a type A person. You fear making mistakes, a lot, but you will make them. It is inevitable.
The next time you make a mistake or feel that you fell short, feel free to use my trick. When you are laying awake at night thinking about the thing that you did or the thing that happened (the judge disagreed with your argument; your client complained about you to your boss; you filed a motion with a typo in the title; your client asked for money back), ask yourself if you’ll still be laying awake at night in a week. Will you still be worried about this in a month? A year?
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