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Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: Practical Advice for New Lawyers

Q: I have decided I should switch practice groups, because the one I am in is not giving me much mentoring. But I have not had much success getting work from the new group. Any advice on what to do? A: Yes. Finding a good “fit” at a firm is critical to your long-term success. But both you and the new practice group have to decide (either formally or informally) that you should work together. And until you have officially joined the second group, the dance can be delicate. At first, you will need work for both groups. And over…

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Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: Practical Advice for New Lawyers

Q: Everyone says that new lawyers should ask questions without worrying about being judged. But I know of lawyers who have gotten negative reactions to questions. What’s your advice about when to ask questions and when to keep quiet? A: New lawyers need to ask questions to learn. But as you recognize, there are exceptions to every rule. There are, in fact, questions to avoid. As with everything in law, you need to be strategic. Some lawyers recommend asking only "sensible" questions. But that doesn't provide much guidance. You should consider what to ask and who to ask – as well as how and when to ask. Here are some tips: 1.    What to ask. One reason lawyers want you to ask questions is to help prevent one of their most common fears. The…

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Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: Practical Advice for New Lawyers

Q: I feel as if another (more senior) associate is trying to sabotage me. The associate tries to get me to do all his non-billable work. And if something goes wrong, he tells people it’s my fault. It’s stressful to work together, and I am concerned that it is going to harm my career. Any suggestions? A: Yes, and I can empathize. Even if your colleagues are supportive, practicing law can be challenging and stressful. Working with people who may not have your back makes things that much harder. In the most recent Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks/Above the Law survey,…

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Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: Practical Advice for New Lawyers

Q: How should I refer to people that I interact with professionally? Are first names okay? A: Here is my quick and dirty rule: If you are in a position of giving advice or providing value to another person, use their first name. In other situations, start with a more formal salutation. Recently, University of Utah law professor Shima Baradaran Baughman called for students to stop calling professors by their first name. Her post for PrawfsBlawg expressed frustration with “nonconsensual first-name calling” and caught the attention of the Wall Street Journal. Professor Baughman’s post argued that casual interactions between professors…

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Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: Practical Advice for New Lawyers

Q: I am entering my last year of law school. Do you have suggestions for things I could do over the next year to be better prepared to practice when I graduate? A: I do. Most students should work to expand their professional networks and refine their writing skills. Practice management and professionalism skills are also important to help you gain credibility and provide more value. With regular effort in these areas over the next year, you will have a head start when you begin practice. That should make your transition more seamless and open up more opportunities to advance.…

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Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: Practical Advice for New Lawyers

Diving Deeper: More Millennial Lawyer Survey Results By Grover E. Cleveland In response to the recent post, Money Matters: 2016 Millennial Lawyer Survey Results, a reader asked if we had survey results broken down by firm size. In the prior post, I noted that compensation was the top reason survey respondents left firms and a top contributor to job satisfaction. The reader was interested in knowing whether perspectives on compensation differed among Millennial lawyers at firms of different sizes. A deeper dive into the data revealed the answers to this question and others below. Earlier this year, I partnered with…

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Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: Practical Advice for New Lawyers

Q: I went straight from undergrad to law school, and I am wondering if you can give me some pointers about being a successful summer associate? A: Yes. You got an offer because you convinced the firm that you are smart, personable and willing to work hard. The summer is your chance to show the firm that it made a wise decision. Here are some tips to help you do that: Be strategic. The summer will go by quickly. Make the most of it by first assessing your goals. One key goal is to get a full-time offer. So consider…

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Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: Practical Advice for New Lawyers

Money Matters: 2016 Millennial Lawyer Survey Results Millennials don't care about money? That's not true for Millennial lawyers according to our survey. Compensation was the top reason Millennial lawyers left firms and a top contributor to job satisfaction. Earlier this year, I partnered with Ms. JD and Above the Law on a survey of Millennial lawyers. The online survey was open to lawyers who were born in 1980 or after. The survey received approximately 600 responses. Although certain questions only applied to specific situations, questions generally received at least 250 responses. Katie Larkin-Wong and I presented key findings from the survey at the…

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Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: Practical Advice for New Lawyers

Q: I received some negative feedback from a partner, and I thought it was completely unfair. Not surprisingly our conversation didn’t go well. Any advice on dealing with this in the future? A: Yes. Negative feedback can be difficult to hear. But it is one of the best ways to get information about what you need to learn and to do differently. You don’t have to accept feedback. But if you don’t, you can make the situation worse. At most firms, the way associates handle feedback is a separate evaluation criterion. From the perspective of the person giving feedback, if…

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Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: Practical Advice for New Lawyers

Q: I am planning to relocate to a new city after I graduate from law school. I have had limited success making connections. Any advice? A: Yes. You first need to convince potential contacts that you are certain to relocate. Making connections in a new city can be challenging, but moving after graduation can be the ideal time to head to a new locale. After school you have the luxury – and the challenge – of being able to build your ideal career from scratch. Where you live is a key factor in building the career (and life) that will…

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