by Jonathan Childers, DAYL President
May, 2015 Dicta
For attorneys who are in their first four years of practice, here are ten tips for excelling during those beginning years of practicing law:
1. Take Ownership of Your Work. Take ownership of a file, anticipate problems, and offer solutions to your supervising attorneys. Recognize how individual assignments connect to the overall case/deal. Work towards managing cases/deals.
2. Develop your Craft. Become a technically proficient lawyer. If you practice litigation or trial law, attend the DAYL Trial Skills Boot Camp on June 6, 2015. If you do transactions, attend the DAYL Deal Boot Camp on September 19, 2015.
3. Practice Accountability. Take responsibility for your actions as well as those of staff members who assist your work. Do not blame team members. Instead, lead by example. Practice managing and delegating when you can. Record your time punctually and accurately.
4. Be Proactive. Anticipate and plan for the future before it occurs. Minimize emergencies. Resolve conflicts with partners by asking for priorities and by keeping them informed on the status of projects. Want help? Read Chapters 1 through 3 of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, and understand the difference between the “urgent” and the “important.”
5. Become Results-Oriented. Economics and efficiency matter. Strive to deliver correct results quickly, through professional and succinct work product. Focus on the issues material to the Judge’s decision. View the law as a service business, identify your clients’ priorities, and value your clients’ time and money.
6. Build and Maintain Friendships. Rainmaking results from years of effort, and from friends, not from strangers. The friendships you cultivate now provide the foundation for client development later in your career. Want a great head-start? Apply for the 2015 DAYL Leadership class; the deadline is June 8, 2015.
7. Think Strategically. Sometimes, the best way to accomplish more, is to slow down – especially when you are in a hurry. Examining and analyzing early will prevent headaches later. Always outline before writing – this makes your writing concise, pithy, and logical. For all court filings, include a one paragraph summary of argument.
8. Be Resilient. Learn from mistakes but do not dwell on them. Do avoid making the same mistakes twice. Rest assured the partners at your firm evaluate associates by how they respond to adversity as well as to success.
9. Adopt and Apply Your Firm’s Vision and Business Practices. Be a team player who takes a personal interest in the firm’s success. Make the priorities of the firm’s partners your priorities and look for ways to make the law firm shine.
10. Practice Good Self Care, Have Boundaries, and Develop a Support System. Take care of your physical, mental, and spiritual health. Set reasonable boundaries, and know your non-negotiables. Find people that you can trust to share problems, successes, and issues. People to consider for your support system: a mentor; a friend who is your legal peer; your significant other; a physician; a minister; a psychologist/life coach; a workout buddy. To learn more, check out DAYL’s Wellness Committee events.