Beginning a career in law is an intimidating process, especially when there is no instruction manual that tells you what you need to know. In fact, us humans learn best through experience and through hardships faced along a journey that helps us to discover who we are. Many lawyers who are just starting out should know the value of experience, gratitude, and hard work. But, for something a little more tangible at the moment, you should keep in mind these lessons many lawyers wish they knew before their first days at a law firm:
First, it is vital to learn the culture of the firm you will be working at in the first few days you are there. According to an intricate article written by Dennis Kennedy that details what lawyers should know before starting their careers, “Your most important job from the time you accept a job is to learn the culture of the organization you are joining,” (20 Lessons for Lawyers Starting Their Careers). People tend to only focus on getting the job that they don’t pay attention to the company culture. But, in reality you should put as much effort as possible into learning what to wear, what hours are appropriate to work, whose opinions matter the most and what mistakes previous employees made.
Kennedy explains, “The ‘myths’ and ‘legends’ of the firm can help you out. If the managing partners of the firm shared a table in the library for their first few years in the firm, you’ll want to hesitate before you demand new furniture,” (20 Lessons for Lawyers Starting Their Careers). By talking to employees and listening to the stories they tell, you’ll be able to get a good idea about what the culture of the firm is. Just be sure to make an effort, because you won’t know unless you ask.
Another way to help ease into your career is to find a mentor that can teach you more than just about the law. You’ll want a role model who can broaden your horizons when it comes to ethics, respect, honor, and things along those lines. According to Kennedy, “You want to hear their stories, understand their insights, and earn and experience their faith in you. In the right case, the right person will be willing to share all that,” (20 Lessons for Lawyers Starting Their Careers).
Lastly, one of the most important aspects of being a lawyer is knowing who you are writing for. Writing is an extremely vital part of doing your work the right way. Writing for clients is different than writing for an attorney, and unfortunately you most likely didn’t learn this at your time at law school. Kennedy says the key for knowing your audience and how to cater your writing towards them is to look at models: “Ask for a letter like the one you are supposed to write. Ask the assigning attorney for an example of a memo he or she liked. Talk about who the intended audience is. Then, make sure that you do what the assigning attorney tells you he or she wants,” (20 Lessons for Lawyers Starting Their Careers). In addition, make sure you don’t forget to include a conclusion – no matter what you write.
Keep in mind these few tips before you begin your long, hard, beautiful journey as a lawyer and if you want more, read Dennis Kennedy’s article here.