Litigation has always been a platform that’s filled with conflicts, stresses, contentious relationships with opposing counsels who lack civility and might continue to unnecessarily badger you and your client in a hearing or even outside the court and so on.
As a newbie lawyer, you need to expect that there are many bad days that await you ahead. There are days when you have to work all weekend; or lose a motion or meet a deponent who’ll testify against your client’s position during a hearing. How do you avoid these cases in the future? Here’s a list of what to know as a newbie lawyer.
Dos and Don’ts During the First Meeting with a Managing Partner
It’s the politest if you always offer a firm handshake before and after meeting your managing partner. Also, when ending a conversation, make sure you are the one who will offer the handshake before your managing partner does it.
During the conversation, it’s best if you maintain a good eye contact while talking and listening to him or her. It’s a basic thing to know that you should listen attentively as it shows how respectful and smart you are, so don’t forget it.
Although you’re smart, don’t try to impress him/her too much with your legal skills and knowledge that you may sound stupid. Mind that you’re just a first-year-lawyer. Your managing partner knows more, so don’t speak too much as if you’re lecturing him/her. It’s better to say things that you need to say, no more than that.
Avoid conversational narcissism and monopolizing the talk. Don’t try to talk about yourself too much, unless your managing partner will ask you to do so. Don’t insult other firms, its attorneys and staff.
Dos Before the First Court Appearance
Before the hearing, make sure that you know the court calendar. It’s more accessible now since most US courts have an online calendaring system already. You can easily know whether a hearing is still on the calendar, hearing is required online, or tentative ruling has been issued.
In addition, every court has little difference from one another so be familiarized with local rules. It’s also a good thing to run a background check about the judge. Each judge has their own way of dealing things. It’s better if you ask your partners, senior associates or attorney list-serves for any things to know. The Legal AED Criminal Lawyers can give you professional advice, as well.
Bad Attitudes to Avoid
It’s common to make mishaps as a first-timer, but don’t make excuses. The court wouldn’t want to hear excuses when you and your office missed the deadline or infraction. Instead, admit the mistake, don’t blame anyone, apologize, and guarantee that it won’t happen again.
Avoid using “with all due respect”. This has been being taught in some Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MLCE) classes in the United States. It has been studied to have a subliminal meaning. Saying this to a judge may mean, “You’re wrong, your honor. But, I’m saying I’ll give you the respect I’m required to give, which by saying this isn’t very much, and I’m going to follow it with a statement that’s probably going to insult you.”
Practical Things to Know when Writing Documents
Prepare to face a lot of document writing. You need to be good at knowing the differences of various documents and each of their style. In this way, it would be easier for you to revise these documents when needed.
Choose substance over form. Don’t spend too much time thinking whether a period should also be italicized or not. It’s not that you shouldn’t mind about technicalities. You still need to. It’s just that the most important thing is the actual substance of what you write.
Also, keep things short as much as possible. If you need to explain in one sentence but would make it a longer sentence, then try to break the sentence into numbered clauses. However, make sure that you thoroughly grasp its entirety before chopping the ideas into pieces so you won’t miss a detail.
Typing and marking up a document on a computer has always been time-consuming. Let your secretaries or hiring someone do these for you; while you do the proofreading, which costs lesser time. In this way, you don’t need to hire a proofreader, who needed to be paid more yet works in a lesser time.
People Who You Should Befriend With
Paralegal and legal assistants can help you a lot. They’re the ones who receive all the works. Their position might be lower than that of a lawyer, but they know a lot of things even senior lawyers don’t know.
They know the inner workings, politics of the office, and even the scoop on who you should talk to when you need something in court. They can also direct you to good examples of memos, motions, appeals that you may need to draft, or even the mistakes need to be brought to the senior attorney’s attention immediately and what mistakes can be resolved with a quick fix.
Once you befriend with them, learn to respect. Don’t think that you are the lawyer and you know better than them, because that’s not true. Paralegal has been in the legal profession even before you were born and again, they know more things than other old lawyers in an office.
“Act right when you win, act right when you lose”. Of course, the judge knows you’re disappointed when you lose. But, he/she expects you to respect his/her decision and the system. Always be mature and show class, regardless of the outcome you’ll experience.
Play fair as well. Address mistakes in a gracious way. You might need grace in the future too. Treat others how you want to be treated. Always mind your own words and behavior as this affect your reputation, your client’s reputation, and the reputation of your employer.