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Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: Practical Advice for New Lawyers

Q: I am a new lawyer, and I understand the need to keep my “filter” on. But it seems awkward to focus on that all the time. And I sometimes find that I have let my guard down before I know it. Any suggestions? A: Yes. But it takes practice and planning ahead. Here are some tips to help keep you from stepping in it: Pinpoint your vulnerabilities. Thankfully, we are all different. Some people tend to be more deliberative; others are more impulsive. And many external factors can affect what we say or do. Think about your natural tendencies…

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Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: Practical Advice for New Lawyers

Q: I have just started having direct contact with a client. I need some information from the client to complete a project. But I have contacted the client several times, and I have not gotten any response. I'm concerned about telling the partner, because the partner may think I can’t handle the situation. Do you have any suggestions? A: Yes. The client is probably just busy. You can try some additional approaches, but if the project is languishing, you need to tell the partner. My answer below assumes, of course, that the information you requested is not something that your…

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Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: Practical Advice for New Lawyers

Q: If I am going to miss a deadline, does it help to tell the attorney who assigned the work the reason that I can’t make the deadline? A: Usually, no. Think of it this way: If you go to a restaurant and your food takes an eternity to arrive, are you less hungry because the “kitchen was backed-up”? Are you less annoyed? Probably not. You just decide the restaurant is mismanaged. There are some times that providing an explanation will soften the blow. For example, if you are working around the clock on a high-profile matter, you may get…

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Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: Practical Advice for New Lawyers

Q: I am new at the firm, and I have a legal assistant who has already saved me several times. She is invaluable, and I wanted to show my appreciation, so I invited her to lunch. At first, she eagerly accepted, but as the date was approaching she declined, saying she thought it was better if she did not go to lunch. How can I show my appreciation without having things get awkward? A: Yes. I realize the reference to “the date,” was not intended as a pun, but that may be part of the issue. Your legal assistant may…

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Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: Practical Advice for New Lawyers

Q: I am just starting as a summer associate. Are there things I can do to stand out in a positive way? A: Sure. You know the basics: Be nice to everyone. Do error-free work. And stay out of Above the Law. But to stand out in a good way, you need to do things that others may forget. Here are some things to consider: Take Initiative. You will go to social events and complete projects. But if you really want to shine, seek out people to meet and projects that interest you. Firms want to know that you really…

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Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: Practical Advice for New Lawyers

Q: I’m a freshman in High School, and I want to prepare to become an attorney. I have already done a bit of research, but there are still a few questions that I have (below). A: As I mentioned in part one of my response last month, I am impressed that you are preparing early! Here are the answers to your remaining questions: 1.  What are a couple of things I can do to improve my writing skills? First, you are prescient to ask about writing skills. For most lawyers, writing is an essential skill for success. Many law firms…

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Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: Practical Advice for New Lawyers

Q: I’m a freshman in High School, and I want to prepare to become an attorney. I have already done a bit of research, but there are still a few questions that I have (below). A: Excellent! You are preparing early! Being a lawyer can be fascinating and rewarding. But it’s not as glamorous as media portrayals. As you progress in your education, learn about legal careers, but keep an open mind about other fields. There is a lot to explore in the world! Here are your questions and my answers:  1.  What job should I get in college if…

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Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: Practical Advice for New Lawyers

Q: Are there lessons for new lawyers from the recent Academy Awards “Envelopegate” snafu involving PwC? A: Oh yes. The more obvious lessons are that even with straightforward assignments, the consequences of mistakes can be huge and “do-overs” may not be possible. I discuss these and other lessons below. “Envelopegate” is the moniker many media outlets have given to the Best Picture snafu at the 2017 Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday, February 26, 2017. To set the stage (for the approximately zero percent of readers who have not had any Internet or other news access in the past week), a…

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Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: Practical Advice for New Lawyers

Q: I am involved in a negotiation with an abusive opposing counsel. He tries to embarrass me in front of my client and says I don’t know what I am talking about. I am concerned about raising this with my supervising attorney, because he may think I am over my head. Any suggestions? A: Ah. Civility. Depending on your personality, the rough and tumble of law practice can be one of its less appealing aspects. But sometimes the job involves taking a bullet for your client. Usually, the best course of action involves keeping a laser focus on your client’s…

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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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