Recently, I’ve noticed that new attorneys struggle with professionalism and I began to think about what I didn’t know in my first year of practice. A mentor told me, “Tiffany the “real work” starts after you pass the bar.” He gave me that pearl of wisdom a few years back, and by experience I now know it is true. I motivate myself with this wise reminder when I’m having challenges as a young lawyer in the profession. New lawyers will quickly learn that what people think you do is different from what you actually do. Moreover, you will learn that what you thought about the profession is different than your current reality. As our newest members of the bar, you may be employed or looking for employment. Whatever the situation, now is a time to put into action what some dream of becoming since childhood.
While figuring out what “real work” is differs by the attorney, what remains constant are the characteristics of a professional person. A professional lawyer is ethical, diligent, hardworking, and willing to learn. There are no quick ways to build a career except time so be patient with yourself. Professional conduct is an important key in building a successful legal career; therefore I share with my friend, the new lawyer, a few things that I’ve learned over the years.
My dearest friend,
It is always good to be kind to everyone you encounter. You never know who that person is or their story. Early is on time. Whether it is court, a meeting, or the office be on time. Be prepared and willing to work. Be an asset not a liability. You are new! Show what you got before you ask about what you can get. Be adaptable and willing to try. Ask questions and pay attention to detail. Be open to change in the legal profession. Have reasonable expectations for where you are in the profession. Be a confident attorney and have confidence that you can succeed.
Be respectful to the Court, and respect the Judges decisions because people will remember your behavior. When leaving an employer, provide a two week notice. Each job is an opportunity to learn. Treat others how you want to be treated.
Take care of yourself mentally, and physically. Be patient with yourself as you find your way as an attorney. You’ve come this far, don’t give up, and be persistent. If you don’t know something, learn it. Keep asking until you get your YES. Be a self-motivated overachiever. If you work for yourself or another, be motivated to do your best. Professionalism is an important part of building relationships with clients and others within the legal community. In order to have career longevity, remember that every day is a new opportunity to give, to practice, and to develop. My friend practice at least 4 of the tips and make it a point to pass them on to another young professional that you meet.
Your friend, Tiffany