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November 01, 2022

Dear Law Firm Partners: You Didn't Always Know What You Know Now

No matter how long you've been practicing law, there's always a chance that you'll forget what it's like to be a new lawyer. It can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of your job and lose sight of the challenges that come with being new to the profession. In this article, we'll talk about ways attorneys can remember what it was like when they were new so that they can provide support and mentorship to newer attorneys. We'll also discuss how these tips can help lawyers stay humble and grounded in their work. 

Try to Remember 

Most people who become lawyers do so because they want to help others. They want to fight for justice, protect the innocent, and make sure that everyone has a fair chance in the legal system. However, law firms can be extremely competitive places, and it's easy for new attorneys to feel like they're constantly fighting an uphill battle. 

We all have to start somewhere. Whether we are learning how to bake a cake or draft a legal brief, none of us know everything from the get-go. It is important to remember this when we are training new associates or teaching our partners new skills. It can be easy to forget just how long it took us to learn basic legal skills and how much patience and practice it took to get where we are today.

Tips for Empathizing with New Attorneys

One of the most important things you can do as an attorney is to take the time to train your new associates. They will not know how to do everything, and that is okay. What is not okay is if you do not have the patience to teach them.

As attorneys, we are expected to know the law inside and out. We didn't become lawyers overnight - it took years of schooling, hours of studying, and a lot of practice to become the knowledgeable professionals that we are today. However, sometimes we forget how challenging it was to learn all of this information in the first place. It's important for us to remember what it was like not knowing something so that we can better empathize with our clients, new associates, and even law students. 

Whether you're looking to support newer attorneys at your firm or just want to reflect on your own journey, here are five tips for remembering what it was like when you were starting out in your career:

  1. Talk to other attorneys who are new to the profession. 
    This is one of the best ways to remember what it was like when you were first starting out. By talking to other new attorneys, you can get a sense of the challenges they're currently facing and offer advice based on your own experience. Not only will this help you relate to them on a personal level, but it will also allow you to share your knowledge and help them as they navigate their own career journey.

  2. Reflect on your own journey. 
    You can also reflect on your own journey by taking some time to think about the challenges you faced when you first started practicing law. What did you find difficult? What would you have done differently if you could go back? These reflections will not only help jog your memory, but they can also give you some insight into how you've grown as an attorney over the years. 

  3. Read articles or listen to podcasts about being a new attorney. 
    If you're struggling to remember what it was like when you were first starting out, another option is to read articles or listen to podcasts about being a new attorney. This can help refresh your memory and give you some perspective on the challenges that newer attorneys are currently facing. Plus, it can be a helpful way to stay up to date on the latest issues affecting those who are new to the profession.

  4. Read law firm blogs
    A great way to gain some insight into the world of being a new attorney is to read law firm blogs. These blogs are typically written by experienced attorneys who share their thoughts and advice on a variety of topics, including how to be a successful new attorney. Pay attention to the advice they share and see if any of it applies to your current situation.

  5. Go back and read your old emails. 
    This may sound like an odd way to remember what it was like being a new attorney, but bear with us. Going back and reading old emails from when you were first starting out can be a great way to refresh your memory. Pay attention to the types of questions you were asking and the kinds of things you were struggling with. Chances are, you can use that information to help newer lawyers who are going through the same things you did.

The Importance of Mentorship 

As an attorney, you know that your success is contingent on a lot of things. Your education, your experience, your work ethic, and your ability to think on your feet are all important factors. But there is one factor that is often overlooked: mentorship.

Having a mentor can make all the difference in your career. A mentor can help you navigate the waters of the legal profession, offer advice and guidance when you need it, and introduce you to people who can help further your career.

Yet despite the clear benefits of mentorship, many attorneys do not have mentors. In fact, according to a recent survey by the American Bar Association, only 27% of respondents said they had a mentor. That leaves a lot of attorneys out there swimming on their own.


Three Reasons To Consider Being A Mentor

  1. It ensures that the profession continues to grow and thrive.
    If we want the legal profession to continue to grow and thrive, we need to make sure that we are training the next generation of attorneys. By taking the time to mentor new associates, you are ensuring that the profession will continue to flourish for years to come.

  2. It helps to build a strong foundation for new attorneys.
    Starting your career as an attorney can be daunting. There is so much to learn and it can be overwhelming at times. As a mentor, you are in a unique position to help ease some of those worries and provide a strong foundation on which new associates can build a fulfilling career.  It follows, someone who had a positive mentee experience will become a mentor in the future.

  3. It fosters a sense of camaraderie within the profession.
    Mentorship provides an opportunity for attorneys to connect with one another on a personal level. It allows us to share our experiences and knowledge so that we can all be better lawyers. Additionally, mentorship fosters a sense of camaraderie within the profession, which is important given how competitive it can be at times. 

Resources for New Attorneys

Luckily, there are a wealth of resources available online to help new attorneys get started on the right foot. Here are five of the best websites for new attorneys, covering everything from job search tips to ethics information.

  1. American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division: 
    The ABA YLD is a great resource for new attorneys, offering everything from CLE resources to job search advice. The website also includes information on law practice management and a directory of state and local bar associations.

  2. National Association for Law Placement:
    NALP is the premier resource for legal career information, with data on salaries, job placement rates, and more. The website also includes a job board and information on CLE courses and events.

  3. Lawyerist:
    Lawyerist is a blog written by lawyers, for lawyers. The website covers a wide range of topics, including business development, law practice management, technology, marketing, and more.

  4. FindLaw:
     FindLaw is a comprehensive legal resource, with information on everything from criminal law to estate planning. The website also includes a directory of lawyers and law firms, as well as a legal dictionary and research center.

  5. Law.com:
    Law.com is the industry-leading media platform powering over 18 online U.S. national and regional award-winning legal publications that deliver quality local coverage with global insights & trends on the entire legal industry

Ways to get involved with the legal community

One of the best ways to get involved with the legal community is to attend events. There are often events happening that are specific to the legal industry, such as conferences, seminars, and workshops. Attending these events can help you learn about current trends in the industry, network with other legal professionals, and find potential business opportunities.

Joining organizations is another great way to get involved with the legal community. There are many organizations that cater to different aspects of the legal industry, such as the American Bar Association and the National Lawyers Guild. These organizations often offer members access to resources, Continuing Legal Education (CLE) courses, networking opportunities, and more.

Finally, networking is one of the most important things you can do to get involved with the legal community. Networking allows you to build relationships with other professionals in the industry, which can lead to new business opportunities, referrals, and more. You can network at events or through organizations, or you can reach out to people you know personally who work in the legal field.

Being an attorney is a rewarding but challenging profession. It's important for those who have been practicing law for a while to remember what it was like when they were first starting out so that they can provide support and mentorship to newer attorneys. By talking to other attorneys who are new to the profession, reflecting on your own journey, and reading articles or listening to podcasts about being a new attorney, you can jog your memory and gain some perspective on the challenges that newer attorneys are currently facing.


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About the author

Abdi Shayesteh

Founder & CEO of AltaClaro, an experiential learning platform that delivers researched-backed practical skills training solutions for lawyers. Serial entrepreneur, founded and successfully sold two startups prior to age 30. Over 15 years of experience as a corporate and banking attorney in diverse settings.