TS: What inspired you to become a lawyer?
My mother tells me I always wanted to be a lawyer. But the truth is that I grew up in a working-class neighborhood in a small city. I had no exposures to lawyers or any real idea what they did day-to-day. Then, as I was transitioning from middle school to high school, a family member was injured and we needed legal help. It was amazing to me that the lawyers seemed to be able to internalize the issues we were facing, master all the data and law, and put it all together in way that gave a clear path toward resolution of the claim. I knew then that I wanted to help others in the same way. After a few distractions along the way, I came back to the law. I’m lucky I did, because every day I have the opportunity work with a variety of clients to tackle new, challenging issues.
TS: How did you become involved with the ABA?
I’ve been lucky to have many great mentors. Two of my mentors, Jill Berkeley and Mike Drumke, encouraged me to get involved in TIPS. When I attended my first meeting, several other TIPS members took me under their wings and helped me find opportunities within TIPS. I was given the opportunity to participate in planning educational programs and seminars, for which I worked with phenomenal lawyers and cutting-edge experts. A few years later, I was nominated for the TIPS Leadership Academy. After that, I chaired the Section’s Ethics and Professionalism Committee and the Toxic Tort and Environmental Law Committee, and I will soon become chair of the CLE Board.
TS: What is the benefit of a new lawyer becoming active with the ABA?
The ABA, and TIPS in particular, offers much to new lawyers: training opportunities, networking, and early opportunities to showcase your talent through writing and speaking. For me, early opportunities arose to speak on panels at national seminars, publish articles that appeared in newsletters and law journals, and grow an international network of trusted friends and colleagues.
TS: What early career practices led to your success?
Curiosity. Being truly interested in my cases, my clients, and my colleagues’ approaches to the issues we grappled with opened myriad opportunities. Those opportunities allowed me to expand my skill set and traverse the learning curve much faster.
TS: What early career mistakes did you make?
Trying to copy other lawyers. I’ve grown up around amazing lawyers, and it’s tempting to want to emulate them. Thankfully, those same great lawyers taught me that it’s okay to borrow the best techniques, but you should make them your own.
TS: What gives you the most satisfaction?
Trying cases, partnering with clients to find creative solutions to their concerns, and having the opportunity to observe young lawyers come into their own.
Josh Lee’s Advice for New Lawyers:
- Become a technically proficient lawyer. Advocacy is an art, and creating a masterpiece requires a firm understanding of the law and rules.
- Be available. The best opportunities come when you least expect them. Most often, the odd-hour call is sign of respect for your talent and ability.
- Don’t be afraid to stretch. The most exciting opportunities come when you’re out of your comfort zone.
- Engage. The friends and mentors you gain in organizations like TIPS will be invaluable throughout your career.