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July 14, 2021 Did You Know?

“When I Was a New Lawyer”

By the Honorable Cynthia “Cindy” Richardson Wyrick
Image Courtesy Cynthia Richardson Wyrick

Image Courtesy Cynthia Richardson Wyrick

Cynthia Richardson Wyrick then and now.

What inspired you to become a lawyer? And what did you do prior to becoming a lawyer?

The opportunity to make a difference was the primary factor, but my mom would also tell you that I always liked to argue my case. I worked several jobs prior to and during law school. The one people might find most surprising was a job that required me to wear a tool belt and pull wire.

How did you become involved with the ABA?

I became involved in the ABA as a law student after seeing an announcement for a leadership position available in my Law Student Division Circuit. After serving in that role, I ran for and was elected to the position of Division Delegate to the ABA House of Delegates. I’ve been hooked on ABA involvement since that time.

What is the benefit of a new lawyer becoming active with the ABA?

There are countless benefits to ABA involvement. For me, the opportunity to make a difference in the legal system and the community, the lifelong friendships I have developed, the mentoring I have received, and the business development opportunities were some of the most important.

What early career mistakes did you make and what did you learn from them?

As a young lawyer, I thought there would come a time when I had “arrived” as a lawyer— in other words, when I no longer was nervous before a major trial and always had the answer for my clients off the top of my head. A few years into my practice, the ABA Journal ran a series about lions of the trial bar where some of the most well- known attorneys in the profession talked about how they still got nervous before every trial, with one even throwing up before his trials. In fact, their universal message was that being nervous was how they knew they cared enough about their client and the case they were trying. Those articles helped me understand that practicing law successfully was more about hard work and caring about my clients and the profession than the number of years that I had been practicing.

What is your advice for dealing with difficult partners, colleagues, or counsel?

Don’t ever say or write anything that you would not want a judge hearing your case to hear or read. If you find yourself writing an unpleasant email or letter, always hold it, preferably until the following day. You will likely delete it or will certainly revise it. I always knew that civility in the practice was important and tried to conduct myself accordingly. Since taking the bench, however, I realize all the more how true that is. As a judge, there is nothing I hate to see more than nasty emails, letters, or motions being exchanged by lawyers because of the damage that does to the image of the profession.

What is your advice for a new lawyer seeking to acquire, retain, and nurture client relationships?

Even though it can be difficult to turn down business in the early years of your practice, be selective about the cases that you take. For instance, if a client has already had multiple lawyers with whom they are dissatisfied think long and hard before taking on the matter. Clients want to know that you care and are working hard for them which you can demonstrate by communicating regularly and being well-prepared.

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By the Honorable Cynthia “Cindy” Richardson Wyrick

The Honorable Cynthia “Cindy” Richardson Wyrick is a United States Magistrate Judge for the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Tennessee.