The Big Picture: Preparing For Your New Job

The bar exam is over, summer is winding down, and junior lawyers all over the country are gearing up to head to work. This is an exciting time, and I encourage you to enjoy your last bit of freedom before entering the workforce full-time.  Here are a few tips to smooth your transition from law student to lawyer.

1. Get your home in order

Are you moving to start your new job? If so, make sure you unpack completely before you start work.  You do not want to come home to rooms full of empty boxes after a long day at the office.  Even if you worked full-time prior to entering law school, you may find it hard to get back into the 9-to-5 groove after three years of a flexible schedule, especially if your new groove is actually closer to 9-to-whenever the work is done.

2. Automate everything

This may seem extreme, but you should simplify your everyday life as much as possible before you start your job. You can set up automatic bill payment, housecleaning, laundry pick-up, DVR recording, and on – whatever makes sense for your life, schedule, and budget. Prepare for the worst case scenario: lots of work, all the time.  Even if you are not super busy from the start, you may find yourself exhausted at the end of the work day from the stress of learning a new job. Save your brainpower for work.

3. Shop within reason

Dress codes vary widely by office, so I suggest you hold off on any major clothes shopping until after you’ve been at work for a couple of weeks to get a sense for your office norms.  But at a minimum (and obviously), you need to make sure you are neat and presentable starting on day one.  A good rule of thumb is to wear a suit your first day.  Over time, you will probably dress more casually, as very few offices actually require formal business dress these days.  And don’t be afraid to show your personality through your clothing if it makes you happy! But do keep a blazer in your office in case you get called into a formal meeting.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash


The Big Picture: How to AVOID Being Really, Really Busy

As a sequel to my last post (how to deal with being really, really busy), I want to spend a little bit of time talking about what you can do to avoid getting to the point of work overload.

In truth, sometimes there is nothing you can do. To be frank, the same is often true as you become more senior. This is a service industry, after all.

That said, here are my tips at two important points in your work cycle… Continue reading “The Big Picture: How to AVOID Being Really, Really Busy”

The Big Picture: What to Do When You’re Really, Really Busy

At some point, it will happen to you. Work will be so busy that your life feels like an endless cycle of: (1) wake, (2) work, and (3) sleep (aka, dream about work).

As an attorney in a large law firm, I have much more experience in the art of being busy than I would prefer. BUT: as a senior associate, I handle it better than I did as a first or second year lawyer. A lot of that is down to experience; I learned how to juggle my caseload and manage expectations.  I plan to dive into those topics in future posts.  Today I’m going to focus on one trick I employ to stay sane during busy weeks, months, and even years:

I carve out “me” time.

I know what you’re thinking: yeah, right! It’s true, when you’re so busy that you only see the inside of your home long enough to grab a couple of hours of sleep and a shower, the thought of seeing friends, your significant other, or even a 30-minute TV show is laughable, and the idea of carving out “you” time seems like a mean joke. But if you want to retain your sanity when pulling insane hours, you need to do it.

It doesn’t have to be hard, and it should not add to your stress levels. Carving out “me” time is really just a way to keep a little bit of control over your schedule and step away from work when that feels like an impossibility.

The key to making it effective is to carve out time in a way that fits your personal needs within the confines of your work schedule. So what does that mean? Well… Continue reading “The Big Picture: What to Do When You’re Really, Really Busy”

The Big Picture: You are responsible for your own career.

In “The Big Picture” posts, I discuss issues and ideas focused on your long-term career.

During the first few years of your career, a lot of your time is going to be focused on figuring out how to make it through the day. You’ll be in the weeds, so to speak. And it will probably take a couple of years for you to feel like you have a clue about what you’re doing and how to practice law.  Putting your head down and focusing on the day-to-day job is necessary, but make sure you act strategically when you can so that when you do pop you for air, you like where your career is headed.

And it is so easy to feel aimless at the start of your career.  For the first time in your life, you might not have a concrete goal.  You had been on a clear trajectory: (1) high school; (2) college; (3) law school; (4) bar exam; (5) get a job; (6) show up. And then…what?

You might not be able to answer that question, and that’s okay.  But don’t let the unpredictable schedule, crazy hours, and total newness of life as a young lawyer stop you from taking control where you can.  Because nobody cares about your career as much as you do. And it’s up to you to take it where you want to go.

So, even when you have little to no autonomy in your daily work life, here are a few things to try:

  • Take on new work strategically.
    • Keep an eye and ear out for opportunities. Talk to other young lawyers in your office, talk to formal and informal mentors, and talk to whomever is in charge of work assignments.
    • Want to work with a particular attorney? If you see a gap in your schedule coming up, reach out to them and ask if they have any opportunities.
    • Interested in a particular area of law? Figure out who in your office works on those matters and ask to get involved.
  • If you work in private practice, take on a pro bono case.
    • Pro bono work is awesome for all kinds of reasons. From a purely career-driven standpoint, it can:
      • Help you learn new skills before you would get a similar opportunity on a billable matter;
      • Provide leadership opportunities;
      • Provide experience in a different area of law, helping you figure out what you like and what you don’t; and
      • Help you make connections for the future.
  • Target your continuing legal education (CLE) credits to issues you care about.
    • This can also help you take on new work strategically. Let’s say you want to break into your firm’s antitrust group. If you attend a great CLE on emerging trends in antitrust law, write up a short blurb about it and reach out to an antitrust attorney you know (or one you don’t) and offer to circulate the course materials to your firm’s antitrust group.
  • Attend office events.
    • You will stay engaged in your company or firm, make connections, hear about new and interesting matters, or at the least, just enjoy a free glass of wine.
  • Take advantage of freebies.
    • Many bar associations offer free membership for at least your first year of practice.

Pic Credit: Jonathan Simcoe (via Unsplash)