Friday, September 21, 2012

Five things every new lawyer should know

It's been exactly 13 years since the bar exam in July. OK, maybe not 13 years, but it feels that long. Anyway, the results will be releaseed exactly one week from today in Kentucky. Other states, including Nebraska, Florida, Utah and West Virginia, already have released their scores. But there's no use in lingering over the long wait time. The mountain cannot be moved. Instead, I offer a few modest pointers that I've picked up over the last few months. I'll be adding to this list over the next year, and blogging about my experience and the experience of other young lawyers in the Louisville area.

  1. Get a criminal lawyer in your Rolodex. Over the last six weeks, I've been approached by friends and neighbors for help with two different traffic tickets, and a dicey immigration-related matter. Even if I did practice criminal law, I couldn't do anything for these folks because I'm still waiting on my license and bar results. But I probably would still refer them to a friend who focuses on criminal law because they would be better served by someone with experience in that area. So, it pays to have a few criminal defense lawyers on speed dial. And you never know when you might need them for yourself!
  2. Find a focus. I'm stubborn, and I'm still learning this one the hard way. My main practice areas are in mass tort litigation and personal injury law. Check out our firm's blog here for details. So when I tried to file a quit claim deed the other day as part of a mortgage application for my house, I had to do it three times before getting the process right. Sometimes, it pays to hire someone who knows exactly what they're doing. 
  3. Treat everyone you meet with the same level of respect and courtesy. This one should be a no brainer, but it's been burned into my skull even more over the last two months as I take phone calls and meet with new clients. At least in the world of plaintiff work, it is absolutely impossible to tell at the outset what will turn into a monster case, and what will turn into a non-starter. 
  4. Don't forget your law school buddies. I'm trying to meet at least one law school friend for lunch or dinner each week. I'm learning about their experiences, asking advice, and reminding them about the areas where I practice in case they stumble across a whopper client who needs help in my practice area. With a crazy schedule and loads of work, lunch away from my desk once a week is harder than you might think.
  5. Stay busy. Especially over the next seven days, I'm packing my schedule with as many client visits, deadlines, and other tasks as I can create. My aim is to forget all about the results of that little test, and the fact that all 130 or so members of our class will be furiously clicking refresh on a certain Web site next Friday afternoon to see if their number pops up. In fact, I am sure that I'll be so busy the results won't even surface in my mind during the 48 hours before they are released. Yeah, good luck with that.


  1. Two more tips: for the love of all that is holy, get yourself a smart phone before you finish law school. I'm locked into a two-year contract that won't end until Feb. 2012, and not having a smart phone makes it almost impossible to keep up with a 24h-hour law practice. Also, deal with your student loans. The grace period on my $82,000 legal education tab is up in two months, and I just started the loan consolidation process yesterday. Glad I got the ball rolling, because it's going to take at least three weeks to figure that out (and then about a zillion years to pay them off).

  2. Sounds a bit like waiting to find out about job competitions in government work...livin' in limbo ain't easy, but compared to being without prospects, I'm not complaining!