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Be punctual. The firm, your clients, and your supervisor need to know that he or she can count on you. One of the ways to do this is by showing up on time. Being tardy shows that you cannot be counted on, you cannot manage your time, or, even worse, you value your time more than your client's time. If you will be late, call ahead.
Be prepared. When someone asks you for a document, know where it is so that you can find it quickly. When you are in a meeting, bring a pen and pad of paper, and be sure you are ready to take notes or write down instructions for your next project. Bring copies of relevant documents to a meeting in case you need to refer to them.
Be organized. If you are not prepared, you also may not be organized. If you cannot find a file you need or even a document in the file, you may have an issue with your organization. Your firm may have a particular system for organizing its files. If you are not familiar with that system, ask a legal assistant, a paralegal, or even another attorney for help on how they organize their files so that you can understand the system's methodology. If there is no such methodology, you can ask others how they organize their files or create your own system so that you can always find documents quickly.
View the forest through the trees. If you are working on a very large project, such as a massive document review for discovery, you can tackle this by working on smaller components of the project. It is one thing to work hard on a project. It is another to see how one project is relevant to the overall goal. By understanding the goal, you can help the client.
Avoid distractions. Remove distracting e-mail, instant messages, Twitter, Facebook, and so on.
Stop procrastinating. Stay on task. If you feel overwhelmed or under-eager for the assignment you just received, it is easy to procrastinate. Once you start working on a task, the task may become less daunting.
Ask questions. If you do not understand what the assignment is, ask. If you are going down the wrong path because you failed to ask a question, you have just wasted time. If you need advice on how to handle a situation, ask questions. If you need to find out where the extra paper is for the copier, ask. If you need to know which case provides the support for the issue you are working on, do the research. Although asking questions is usually the best course of action, always be considerate of others' time. They have work to do as well.
Listen to advice. Listening to other lawyers' "war stories" can make you a better lawyer. You can do this in the office, at networking events, or through a mentor. If you listen to others' advice, you can avoid making the same mistakes or learn a new approach to an issue.
Pay attention to deadlines. Deadlines are very important. Never fail to meet a court deadline. Many ethics sanctions occur because a lawyer missed a deadline. Failing to meet a deadline makes you look like you cannot stay on task, are unorganized, and do not value your client's or your supervisor's time.
Be concise. Lawyers are known to add many heretofores, wherebys, and hithertos. Plain English in your writing not only helps your client understand your intention, but it also will help anyone understand your intent. Think about what is easier to understand:
On the Twenty-First of July, in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Nine, the party of the first part hereby contracts with the party of the second part to apply a colorless adhesion to the front outer entrance of the enclosure to which the party of the second part inhabits for the fair market sum of $100.
On July 21, 2009, George Walley will paint John Smith's front door white for $100.
Communicate. Clear communication with your clients and others also is part of a lawyer's practice. Your clients may not understand certain aspects of the law; your job is to explain it to them. If your supervisor does not know a certain nuance that may be important to your case, you must clarify it.
Be a team player. Those in charge do notice who is and is not working well together. You may not like the people with whom you work, but you still need to work with them. Do not hide in your office. You add value to your deal team with a good attitude, being eager to learn, and willing to pull your own weight.
Be helpful. Show your colleagues that you can contribute and are ready to lend a hand. This can lead to more challenging assignments.
Be pleasant. Kindness does go a long way in the world. Treat everyone with respect. If you are lucky enough to have assistants, show them that you value them. Be gracious to those that give you opportunities.
You are embarking on a new part of your life. Although you may feel unprepared for the realities of practice, if you keep a positive attitude and an open mind, you may soon find yourself in a rewarding career.
For more information on the RPTE YLN, please contact:
Elizabeth Lindsay-Ochoa, Chair
1290 Ave. of the Americas, 13th Floor
New York , NY 10104
Jasleen K. Anand, Co-Vice Chair
Law Office of Jasleen K. Anand
500 Old Country Road, Suite 316
Garden City , NY 11580
Rana H. Salti, Co-Vice Chair
Kinship Trust Company, LLC
400 Skokie Boulevard, Suite 300
Northbrook , IL 60062