April 23, 2018 Practice Points

How Young Lawyers Can Enhance Their Practice Through Good Works

By Natassia Kwan

Law School Alumni Involvement
Staying involved with your law school or local law schools where you practice can provide numerous benefits to young lawyers. One such opportunity is serving as a volunteer judge for moot court competitions. In addition to getting to don a judge’s robe, serving as a mock judge for oral arguments allows you to evaluate legal arguments from a different perspective as a judge, which can refine your analysis of cases as an advocate. Attending networking events organized by your law school or a local law school can also greatly help you expand your network.

Recently I attended the UC Hastings College of Law Spring Soiree, where former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and Congresswoman Jackie Speier were keynote speakers. Not only was it inspiring and motivating to see what fellow alumni have done with their legal careers, the event was well attended by Judges, law professors, and in-house counsel, all of whom provided insights about my practice (product liability and mass tort litigation). At every legal position I’ve held, connecting with fellow law school alums has helped build morale and a support network. Getting connected with alumni through law school events can help young lawyers build a strong professional network.

Pro Bono Work
The ABA Model Rule 6.1 advises that lawyers should render at least 50 hours of pro bono legal services per year. Depending on the type of pro bono work you take on, it can be a good opportunity for young lawyers to fine-tune your legal advocacy skills. I recently worked on a pro bono matter in family court in a custody dispute. Although I am not a family law attorney, I found that the core skills needed prevail in family law court are similar to civil litigation disputes. In a case fraught with emotion, the judge cut straight to the legal issues, and I was able to negotiate a stipulation between the parties in the courthouse hallway. Working directly with a client and opposing party to negotiate an agreement in court is not an opportunity many young litigators get in the first few years of practice. Pro bono work is a good chance for young attorneys to hone their courtroom advocacy, writing, and mediation skills while also giving back to society and people in need.

Much has been written on the value of mentoring in the legal profession, and the benefits of having a good mentor are countless. During my time recruiting attorneys as mentors for the ABA Judicial Internship Opportunity Program, a common theme I heard from attorneys was that each of them “wouldn’t have gotten where I am today without my mentor.” Stories about mentors offering invaluable advice that changed the direction of a mentee’s career, making a key introduction, or otherwise helping open a door to a young attorney or law student, are endless.

What is less discussed is the value of being a mentor—the reward and fulfillment seeing your mentee succeed and thrive. Especially for law students who are the first in their families to attend law school, entering the legal profession is daunting. I often receive calls and emails from mentees seeking advice on how to stand out in a cover letter, respond to a tricky situation at work, or deciding which career path is best—questions that many of us have asked ourselves. Mentoring younger attorneys and law students and helping them navigate the choppy waters of the legal profession has been one of most rewarding aspects of my career. Do you ever wonder, am I making a difference? As young lawyers, one of the areas where we can “make a difference” is by mentoring young attorneys and law students. Serving as a mentor has also been invaluable in defining my self-worth as an attorney and what I am leaving behind. A caveat is that some mentoring relationships may not be a good fit, and much depends on a mentee’s desire to learn and frequency of contacting his or her mentor. Local bar associations across the country offer mentoring programs connecting senior attorneys to young attorneys and law students, and young lawyers are sought after as coveted resources to law students.

Natassia Kwan is an attorney in Greenberg Traurig, LLP’s San Francisco office. She is part of the ABA Section of Litigation’s Young Lawyer Leadership Program class of 2018–2019 and also serves as cochair of the Section’s Mass Tort Committee’s Young Lawyers Subcommittee.

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