A few posts around the web today on advice for law students heading into summer jobs. Most of it is applicable to new lawyers as well. Excerpts below:
Getting an Assignment
Always have a pad and pen. When given an assignment ask questions. Better to ask even the dumbest question at the beginning than have to ask midway. Some basic things to know: what the deadline is; the scope of the assignment; the jurisdiction; the partner on the case; the name of the client; the billing number. Do not leave the room until you feel comfortable that you know what it is you are being asked to do. Worrisome of appearing ignorant and not wanting to waste a superior’s time, summers have a tendency to scribble the instructions on their pad with little understanding, thinking that they will figure things out later. This is a sure recipe for wasting everyone’s time, including yours.
1) Be incredibly nice to the secretaries. You might think judges run judicial chambers. For the most part, though, they don’t: Judges’ secretaries run judicial chambers. Judges often keep secretaries for decades, and they rely heavily on them. If you’re working for a judge for a summer, the judge’s lead secretary (or only secretary, if the judge only has one) is going to be your friend or your enemy. Make sure the secretary is your friend. And don’t think for a second that the secretary works for you. You’re just an intern, and you work for the secretary and everyone else who will still be there when the summer is over.
1. Use Three Senses Rather Than Five
Most of us have five senses. Some think they have six. If you put yourself in the latter category, there’s no helping you. Stop reading. If the former, you need to focus on sight and hearing. Just pay attention and listen to everything around you, even when it’s all happening at once. You can learn an enormous amount, both right and wrong, by watching and listening. You learn nothing by speaking.
You think your thoughts are better, deeper, smarter than others? Then speak, but be quite certain you have something useful to add. Criminal lawyers love nothing better than to tell war stories. It’s one of our worst characteristics, but at least lawyers who have been through the mill a few times have some stories to tell. You don’t. No matter how fascinating you think your tales of law school experiences are, they aren’t. Don’t be tempted. You have nothing to contribute.
The third, and most important sense, is touch. You may have little to offer on strategy, tactics or grasp of circumstances, but your grasp of a heavy bag will be sincerely appreciated. Or grasp of a coffee cup. You’re young, strong and perky. Use it to your advantage and put your energies toward something where you can contribute. It will be appreciated, especially if no one has to ask.
See also my old post: