November 2015 Bar Bulletin
Ready for Takeoff: A Pilot's Checklist for a Lawyer Taking Flight
By Peter Roberts
I wish there were such a thing as "introductory, intermediate, and advanced lawyering." You would assist clients in a gradually confident and competent fashion, such as physicians who have their internships and residencies to acquaint them with the real-life aspects of patient care before being totally independent with their own patients.
When you accept a matter from a client as a newly admitted attorney, you are in the same arena as the opposing counsel who may be vastly more experienced. You must learn, absorb, analyze, and act based on the facts, circumstances, protocols, procedural rules, ethics, and interpersonal relations norms related to the matter all at once, without the gradual experience of "lawyering" gained with time.
Use the following checklist as you plot the course of your career.
Choice of Practice Area Drives the Whole Practice
Your area of practice determines all aspects of your daily work. Have a practice of choice - not of necessity. That means to know who you are: personality, past experience, level of organization, people skills, hobbies/interests, attention to detail, etc. Examples to help you assess your preferences are:
Consider the types of clients associated with a practice area. Ideas for niche practice areas may be taken from http://expertpages.com or similar websites.
Your practice area(s) determines the following "working conditions:" The clients are novices to the legal system or they are experienced users of legal services. The client's expectations of you vary based on her past experience (or lack thereof) with lawyers. Does the client understand his obligations and responsibilities to you and to the matter? Are you prepared to spend the time to educate each client about these concerns? The practice area may demand travel that may disrupt your personal life. How much paperwork the matter generates can be related to the type of practice area. Are you good with organizing paperwork and files? Even electronic files require organization. Many meetings may be required with certain practice areas, perhaps using your evenings.
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