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Advice from Michael Jaccarino

After years of hard work, you’ve finished law school, passed the bar exam, and are ready to begin practicing as a lawyer in your chosen specialty. As with any new career, it can take some time to find your footing. What do seasoned lawyers wish they’d done differently in the early days of their practice? Read on for helpful advice and suggestions for newly minted law grads as you set out into the field.

  1. Look up to Your Elders
    This may sound self-explanatory, but remembering to treat the partners (and everyone) at your firm with respect can go a long way to shaping your career and reputation. Recognize that you do have something to learn from those who have been working for longer than you have, and be open to that knowledge when it’s important. And treat everyone—from the secretaries to the people with their names above the door—with kindness.
  2. Think of Senior Lawyers as Your Clients
    Part of the job of a young lawyer is to help smooth the way for the senior attorneys at your firm to get their jobs done. This entails everything from research to proactive problem solving your clients. By working hard and making yourself available for new projects, you take responsibility for your career and will gain recognition as a go-to person at your firm.
  3. Be Prepared
    When you get a new assignment, write down everything and formulate any questions you have. Then, rather than bombarding your supervisor with emails, sum everything up in one exchange. This not only saves them time, but ensures that you have the tools necessary to complete the assignment correctly the first time.
  4. Pay Attention to Detail
    A misplaced comma or a misspelled word in a brief might seem like no big deal, but the message you’re sending if those errors are noticed is that you’re a sloppy worker. Take the time to reread everything you send out, from emails to major reports. While this might not seem like a good use of time when you are multitasking and have tons of projects on your plate, the fact is that the busier you are, the more likely you are to make mistakes.
  5. Have a Clear Outline for Success
    Be proactive in planning with your supervisor what a successful first year should look like. By laying out personal, professional, and career goals, you’ll have some clear benchmarks of success that you can strive for. And by being open with your supervisor about progress, successes, and challenges, you have a line of communication that will ultimately help your career.

By following this advice, you’ll be on the road to impress senior lawyers during your first year at the firm and build a successful career trajectory. Perhaps the most important advice? Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Clarifying even the smallest details can mean the difference between a successful project and one that needs to be done twice, resulting in a loss of both time and money.