3 Early Career Tips for Attorneys Just Starting Out

CSI - Courtroom Sciences Inc.

As fewer and fewer cases are going to trial, the way younger attorneys are coming up through the legal system is perhaps very different now than in years past. With the trial rate in the United States at less than three percent, many young attorneys do not have access to the same opportunities as those who came before them. With this in mind, there are some specific career tips for attorneys that can help these young attorneys make the most out of their early careers. 

What are career tips for young attorneys to advance their legal careers?

There are some specific steps that young attorneys can follow to advance their legal career, including realizing the advantages of staying with the same law firm for an extended period, learning how to seize any opportunity, and understanding the importance of getting and accepting feedback.

Career Tip #1 - Realize The Advantages of Staying With the Same Firm

Young attorneys can sometimes be the punchline of jokes, constantly getting bashed due to their propensity for bouncing around from firm to firm as they chase new and seemingly better opportunities. However, as they pursue these new possibilities, they are also likely missing out on the benefits of staying in the same place and the stability that can bring to a young attorney's career

One of the key advantages of staying with the same firm for several years is that it can give young attorneys a much deeper and generally better relationship with those they work with. You barely catch your stride when you only stay at a firm for two years. It’s almost as if two years is a warm-up period. Staying at the same firm, and building those deeper relationships, can lead to greater trust and bigger opportunities down the line. Trust precedes introductions to more significant individuals and the ability to do many more things. 

Changing jobs every one-and-a-half to two years, and repeating that pattern for ten years or more, never lends itself to gaining much experience at any particular firm. Simply talking to clients is an opportunity for experience, as young attorneys can learn how to understand what the client needs or wants from you. Many young attorneys, quickly moving from firm to firm, aren’t staying long enough to get much client face-to-face time or interaction.

Career Tip #2 - Learn How to Seize Any Opportunity

For a trial attorney, there is significant importance in being able to stand in front of a jury, tell a story, be charismatic, and use your personality to connect with a jury. Regardless of how brilliant and dedicated an attorney may be, lacking this storytelling ability will hinder their efforts in the courtroom. At a basic level, the only way to get better at this type of storytelling is through practice. Unfortunately, it is getting harder and harder to get that trial experience. 

In the past, many law firms may have tried more cases annually than they do now. For the most part, the only cases that will go to trial are those that are high-risk and high exposure, and more senior attorneys will most likely handle those. With this in mind, it becomes more important for young attorneys to take any opportunity to get in front of people, whether speaking at a conference or presenting a paper. Any chance to get in front of people is a great way to practice.  

Then, as these young attorneys are doing their presentations, they need to pay attention to the crowd and make mental notes of their reactions. Particularly noting if they responded in a way that was expected or if the reactions from the audience were unexpected. Outside the courtroom, other opportunities at the firm where the attorney works may include participating in mock trials and focus groups. Even getting up and speaking in front of one's colleagues provides experience. 

Keep in mind that anything that is done infrequently will never be a skill that someone excels at. A golf player can’t expect to go golfing twice yearly and be good at it. Instead, young attorneys should practice and hone their skills regularly to improve. 

Career Tip #3 - Know How to Get and Accept Feedback

Trial attorneys struggle with confirmation bias just as much as jurors do. To combat this, it’s essential for attorneys, particularly young attorneys, to learn how to run their cases, which can also be thought of as their stories, by people who aren’t looking through the same lens. These outside viewpoints can help young attorneys see things they may not have previously considered. Additionally, a theme that may make the attorney feel good may not work well with the jury, and an outside opinion can help pinpoint those weaknesses. 

While this may seem simple for some, it can also be difficult as it requires humility and a resilience to hurt feelings. Of course, not all feedback will be correct, but an attorney needs to be willing to listen to and consider the input provided. 

It’s likely unrealistic that an attorney can do a focus group or a mock trial in every case. However, interoffice colleagues can provide tremendous feedback. Another place to seek objective feedback might be with someone who doesn’t know anything about the case, someone who can come in completely fresh, just as the jury will. These people may be able to pick up on previously missed nuances. 

At Courtroom Sciences, we know you want the absolute best outcome possible every single time. We can help trial attorneys achieve superior litigation outcomes through better data, superior insights, and expert support. From initial case assessments to mock trials and jury selection, we are committed to helping you and your client win.

Key Takeaways

●  With the trial rate in the United States at less than three percent, how younger attorneys are being trained is different now than in years past. 

●  One of the key advantages of staying with the same firm is that it deepens relationships with colleagues and can open the door to new opportunities.

●  Any chance for a young attorney to get in front of people, whether speaking at a conference or participating in a mock trial, is a great way to practice.  

●  While a simple concept for a young attorney, learning to ask for and accept feedback is an important skill to acquire. 

●  At Courtroom Sciences, we can help trial attorneys achieve superior litigation outcomes through better data, superior insights, and expert support. 

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