Five Things Every Law Student Should Know Before Joining a Firm by David Trinh

Making the transition from law student to career in being a lawyer and the work-life-balance can be rather traumatizing for those in the law profession. Young energetic lawyers go from intense years of studying to even more intense conditions when entering the work force. If you’re graduating from one of Oregon’s top law schools, there are plenty of seasoned professionals willing to advise you on the ins and outs of office dynamic when you join your first law firm. Still, those same experienced attorneys are busy with work themselves, and newcomers to the firm often feel thrown to the wolves in their first few months. To avoid the guaranteed culture shock, attorneys are here to offer five helpful hints for a seamless transition into the “real” world of practicing law. No matter how accomplished you are in the classroom, nothing can prepare you for the unique daily challenges that present themselves to working attorneys.



1. Nothing is more important than a deadline. 

The stress of a law student’s final years in the classroom often lead to late assignments, forgotten submissions, and many emailed excuses. But in the “real world” of a firm, one person’s failure to meet a deadline can cause catastrophe for everyone involved. When you work with other attorneys and legal professionals, the roles needed to successfully complete a case are delegated throughout the team. If one team member drops the ball, the entire game can be lost in an instant. From filing a document to sending an email, drafting an appeal to observing a statute of limitations, time is always of the essence. Always be conscious of the seriousness of a deadline. Albany, Oregon attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield will tell you the drastic consequences of a missed deadline. In the very worst case scenario, you could subject yourself to a malpractice lawsuit.

2. Take advantage of down time. 

Depending upon the dynamic of the individual firm you work with, you’re sure to experience ebbs and flows of activity as cases run their courses. When you’re a student, you come to anticipate the pace and amount of workload that comes throughout a given semester. A syllabus can tell you when a paper is due or when a test is administered. But, attorneys know that everyday tasks at a law firm can be entirely unexpected. Some days, you’ll experience lulls of inactivity where you may want to zone out and take a nap, and in some cases, you may just have to.

But an experienced attorney will tell you to take every possible advantage of those days in which there’s very little to do. If you don’t have an immediate deadline, take the time to do much-needed research and get on top of your field of expertise. Excellent attorneys are constantly engaged with their education, and if anything, downtime offers a great chance to de-clutter your office and get your hectic life in order.

3. You should have strong writing skills. 

Because of the nature of correspondence, attorneys should always have impeccable writing skills. You may have to revise your work for the ideas themselves, and when working in collaboration with other minds, you can come together to work out the written details of a case. However, no attorney should write an email or motion that is replete with grammatical, mechanical, or spelling errors.

One improper word choice or errant spelling mistake can make an impression on a client or colleague that can last your entire career. It may seem harsh, but attorneys should always be mindful of their reputation in person and on paper.

4. Be a consummate professional. 

Working in a law firm, you’ll experience days when you’re sick, tired, and relatively useless to complete any quality work. That’s the nature of the fast-paced game. Still, there’s no such thing as a note from the campus infirmary if a court deadline is looming. Attorneys assure that the work they do is all-around rewarding, but with those rewards come many challenges that can lead to a poor reputation.

When joining a firm for the first time, dress professionally even if everyone else dresses casually. Double and triple check your email correspondence for politeness and courtesy. Take your name and your reputation seriously, and when working with clients and colleagues of all levels of education and accomplishment, treat them with respect.

5. Maintain a positive attitude no matter what. 

Finally, law students will learn in time to not let failures or stress get them down. When working with people in a profession where there are always winners and losers, the daily grind of the job can get to even the most positive of people. Attorneys work long, grueling hours and turn to their coworkers for support when they’ve hit their lowest of lows. You want to make sure you have someone there for you when you need it, so always smile, inquire about your fellow workers’ health and happiness, and contribute to the positive morale of the firm.




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