For lawyers, the learning doesn’t stop after law school. The curve remains steep, even after passing the bar. New attorneys spend a lot of time perfecting their work product and arguments, and may pay less attention to certain details of their work that seem trivial—only to learn that those details were not trivial.
Here are some of the most common newbie mistakes:
Not respecting deadlines
Many new attorneys are used to being good students who could ask a professor for an extension so long as they can justify turning in an assignment late. This is fine for a class paper, but in the legal world, the deadline is hard and unyielding.
Sloppy research and writing
Sometimes, to meet that hard, unyielding deadline, new attorneys forget to review their work. Legal research and writing is the bread and butter of all attorneys. Make sure you take the time to check your cases for updates, read the applicable court rules, and proofread your words. Remember to avoid legalese.
Improperly tracking time
Many new attorneys deliberately under report their time, immediately assuming that they are too slow and taking up more time than necessary. This creates the false impression that what really took 6 hours could be churned out in 2. It also makes meeting the billable requirement difficult.
Talking too freely about client matters
This is unsafe and unethical. Don’t discuss client details outside of the working team. Loose lips don’t just sink ships—they sink lawyers.
Taking out frustrations on clients or other lawyers
It is easy to resort to teasing or gossiping about colleagues. Don’t. Pretend your walls could talk. Treat everyone from the janitor to the judge with respect.
Be mindful of expenses
Remember that your salary does not just come out of your firm’s deep pockets—they come from your clients, who you need to send the bill to. Every penny counts.
From the first day of law school, the most important capital you have is your reputation. Your career is built upon your reputation and trustworthiness. This takes years to build, and seconds to destroy. Don’t blow it.