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Expert Advice: Thriving as a Junior Lawyer

Lauren Hakala, Robb William Patryk, George Washington, and Jessica Cherry

It is your first day as a new associate.  You walk into the office nervous but feel that you are somewhat prepared.  You sit down at your desk and open your computer.  You have a sense of what an attorney does behind the screen.  You have worked with Westlaw, you have written at least one memo and brief before, and even know a little bit about the law because you just aced the bar exam.  However, are you really prepared?  Will those skills be what gets you more clients?  What makes you more valuable to the firm?  What the partners will look at 5-years from now for a promotion?

These questions are important but sometimes hard to ask and even more difficult to find out the answers.  That is why we put together a panel of experts who will be answering these questions and more for you.

In law school, students focus on understanding the substantive law, addressing research problems, writing memos and compiling briefs, assertively arguing positions and preparing for the bar exam.  These are very important skills and are critical to one’s success as an attorney.

But there are other skills that can set you apart not just in law school but in practice.  These are the skills that result in one attorney achieving faster career growth than another with comparable substantive skills.  These skills are not taught as frequently as the substantive law, but they are equally important and also must be learned.  The good news is that the same way you learn about easements, you can learn these practical skills.

These practical skills are sometimes referred to as soft skills, which are defined as “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.”  This is important.  You want to be seen as a team player, but the skills required for career development go beyond just being “liked,” they go towards asking the right questions, presenting yourself appropriately, following through on your word, being accountable for your mistakes, and more.  Your level of proficiency with these skills can impact the amount of face time you have with clients, whether you get onto a partnership track, and whether you become a go-to person for people with issues that need to be resolved.

Practical Law/Thomson Reuters and the American Bar Association have teamed up with the following panelists to present a program that addresses the skills and habits that increase your chances for career success:


Lauren Hakala
Lauren Hakala is currently Professional Development Director at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP where she oversees the development and execution of legal training and development resources for attorneys in the firm’s corporate and transactional departments worldwide. Lauren previously practiced corporate and securities law at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP in New York and London, and worked as a Senior Legal Editor for Practical Law’s Capital Markets & Corporate Governance service.

Robb W. Patryk 
Robb W. Patryk is a partner at Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP and co-chair of the firm’s class action and product liability and toxic torts groups. He is a trial lawyer and focuses on complex litigation related to tort and fraud claims involving the sale of consumer, industrial and medical products and securities. Robb has over 25 years of experience in the national and international defense of numerous mass torts.  He has successfully defended several consumer fraud class actions in some of the nation’s most difficult jurisdictions, and has litigated securities, employment discrimination, and other commercial claims on behalf of the world’s premier banks, accounting firms and mutual funds, among others. Robb is also active in providing legal services to the music community and has a deep commitment to providing pro bono legal services.

George Washington
George is Head of Litigation for the Americas at Orange Business Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Orange S.A. and a global provider of business-to-business communications solutions and network services.  He is primarily responsible for litigation and employment law matters for the company’s entities in North and South America, and he also advises senior management globally on a broad range of issues, including investigations, ethics, compliance obligations and corporate security matters.  Before working at Orange Business Services, George worked in private practice at Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C.  George is active in the Labor and Employment Law Section of the American Bar Association.  He is a member of the Section’s governing Council and is Program Co-chair of the Section’s Employment Rights and Responsibilities Committee.

Moderator –       Jessica Cherry
Jessica Cherry is a Senior Legal Editor with the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation service at Practical Law/Thomson Reuters. Before joining Practical Law, she was a partner in the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation group at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP in New York. Before that, she worked as an associate in the Global Equity Services group at Baker & McKenzie in San Francisco. Jessica had other careers before going to law school, including working in television, most notably for ABC’s Good Morning America and at a not-for-profit health promotion research organization promoting children’s health education.

Our panelists will address issues such as what actions you should take during law school to prepare for your legal career and what activities outside of the firm/company can be helpful to your career.   For example, our panelists will address what the word professional development means to them, what actions you can be taking now to prepare for practice, what advice they wish they would have received, what they look for in a junior associate, and what mistakes they often see young attorneys make.

We also want to know what your concerns are so we can address them with our panelists.  Share with us questions that you have for our panelists by emailing [email protected], or sharing via Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #TRGoPro.