Ursula Furi-Perry Esq.

Ms. Prof: Five Lessons for New Associates from Bar Prep

Another bar exam is behind us, and my fingers are crossed for everyone who sat for the test.

As I assisted students with bar preparation, both individually and in study groups, it struck me that there were some great parallels between the nerves getting to bar applicants and the nerves that get to recent law grads who are starting a new job. The same advice that I give to bar applicants is sound advice for new associates. For example:

First, don’t count yourself out. I’ve seen too many students “give up” on a particular type of question because they “just aren’t good at it.” Likewise, too many new law grads won’t apply for that job opening or ask their supervisors to let them take on that new that project. If you have done the work, you are qualified—it doesn’t mean you’ll definitely pass or get the job, but it means you definitely stand a chance. So, go into it with a positive outlook and attitude.

Still, understand and be realistic about your strengths and weaknesses. Just as you probably can’t master every single subject tested on your jurisdiction’s bar exam, you probably also can’t master every single task that you’re given as a new associate. The question is: what is your strategy for eliminating – or at least minimizing – your weaknesses and maximizing your strengths?

On that note, also have a game plan for every possibility. What will you do on the bar if you ARE faced with a question and know very little about the topics tested? What is your strategy at work when you receive an assignment that you haven’t handled in the past? Have a plan and stick to that plan. Also, just as you need to know where you might find help and assistance with bar prep, you need to know whom to ask for help if you have a question or issue as a new lawyer.

On the bar exam, there is no substitute for hard work, knowledge, and having the right skill set (such as being able to spot the issues tested. The same rings true on the job as a new associate.

Understand that much like the two or three days spent on taking the bar exam, every day you spend on the job is just one day in your life. The bar may be the toughest test you take, or a difficult assignment may give you trouble, but in the end, it is just a minuscule part of the “big picture.” Don’t let the stresses of the bar – or a new job – get the best of you.

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