Admitted to practice law in Tennessee by one of my heroes. (October 2013).
1) Law school is the not same as law practice
At all. Not even close. I felt so lost and overwhelmed when I first started practicing. I graduated near the top of my class and clerked throughout law school, so I felt like I had a ‘pretty good idea’ of what to expect... Wrong! You literally have to hit the ground running on day one and learn by doing. With that being said, I cannot stress the importance of having a mentor.
2) Clients are not interested in where you went to law school or GPA
The only “numbers” clients are interested in are dollar figures. I have never had a client decide whether or not she would hire me based on where I went to law school. All a client cares about is whether you can do the job. Period. Likewise, no client has ever asked about my GPA or LSAT score. I’ll be honest, the LSAT was not my greatest experience. In fact, during the admissions process a former dean looked me straight in the eye and told me that “statistically speaking” I would not survive one semester in law school based on my score. Ouch. Of course, that motivated me to prove her wrong, and I did. (See picture below).
3) Learn from your mistakes and move on
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Everyone makes mistakes. You have to learn from them and move on. Dwelling on mistakes is very counter-productive and can be depressing. When I first started, I misspelled a word in a document and thought it was the end of the world. I proofread the document several times, but it did not catch my eye until it was too late. (Spell check didn’t catch it either). I dwelled on my mistake for days and felt like the other lawyers on the case thought I was an idiot. Turns out, they did not even notice! I worried myself to death over something that seems so trivial now. You have to let mistakes go and learn from them.
4) How to Manage Time
I have a pretty consistent caseload and can work on up to five cases at a time. This means I have to juggle several ongoing projects and know (1) what is due and when, (2) who needs to be contacted, (3) whether we can negotiate a settlement, and (4) what needs to be addressed moving forward. I have learned how to prioritize and organize my schedule so that I can be as productive as possible. For me, this means soon after I have had my morning coffee. I arrive early and try to get as much work done before the phone starts ringing and emails begin pouring in.
5) Preparation is Everything
“The devil is in the details.” Law is no exception. You have to be very detail-oriented and always bring your “A-game” to succeed in this business. That means knowing the ins and outs of each particular case before appearing in front of a judge. I always prepare clients for what to expect and how to testify before ever stepping foot inside of a courtroom. Also, I keep all relevant documents handy and in order, along with extra copies. The judge will appreciate you for being prepared. On a side note, every judge, every court, and every county does things differently. It is so important to get to know your judges and clerks and how they handle cases. Clerks are your best friends and can be very helpful!
I had the honor of speaking at graduation. May 2013. So much for those statistics! ;-)
**Don't ever let someone measure or determine your success based on one arbitrary score. As Elle Woods stated so eloquently, "You must always have faith in people, and most importantly, you must always have faith in yourself."
I learn something new every day, so this list is by no means complete. I would love to hear from you and what you learned in your first year of law, or any field! As always, thanks so much for stopping by! I really enjoy hearing from everyone on here and Instagram!