The transition from law student to full-fledged attorney isn’t exactly a piece of cake. In fact, it can sometimes feel like you have no idea what you’re doing – what happened to all of the knowledge gained during those three long years of school?
Luckily, there are plenty of lawyers who came before you and can offer wisdom learned along the way. Read the following advice from accomplished DBA members, and leave any questions you may have in the comments. And, don’t forget to share these wise words with your fellow new attorneys!
“Three lessons that I learned early from one of my mentors were: 1) Take your cases and work seriously, but not yourself; 2) Develop a reputation as the most credible, ethical, and professional lawyer around; 3) Seek out as many mentors as you can to help you develop your professional identity.”
John Baker. John Baker spent 33 years as a trial attorney, before retiring from trial practice in 2010 to work as President and Executive Director of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. In 2013 John was appointed by the Colorado Supreme Court Advisory Committee as the first director of the Colorado Attorney Mentoring Program (“CAMP”). John served as President of the Denver Bar Association in 2009.
“Get involved with the CBA and your local Bar Association early and often. Find a mentor who you actually like. Don’t have an ego and realize that 99% of your mistakes are correctable. Be a professional who always strives for the high ground and make time for family and friends. Enjoy being part of something special.”
Jake Eisenstein. Jake C. Eisenstein practices law primarily in the area of plaintiff’s side civil litigation. He handles all aspects of serious injury cases related to motor vehicle collisions, premises liability, negligence and other traumatic injuries.
“Be prepared. Be prepared to work harder than you ever imagined. Be prepared to earn far less than you ever anticipated. Be prepared to be castigated, ridiculed, and second guessed at every turn by attorneys, judges, and your own clients. Finally, be prepared that, every once in a great while, a client will say thank you and you will go home knowing you made a difference in the world. And that will make the rest of it completely worthwhile.”
Stephanie Rikeman. Stephanie Rikeman is a former Deputy District Attorney and criminal defense attorney. She opened her own practice in December 2013 and currently practices family law in Colorado Springs.
“1) The court clerks are your friends. Treat them well and they can be an invaluable help. 2) Ask questions. No one expects you to know everything when you graduate law school. 3) Network, network, network. 4) It’s good to want to believe your clients, but they don’t always tell you the truth. Constantly question, but in a nice way.”
Susan Borgos. Susan Borgos practiced law for 10 years before getting into IT. She has been working in IT for the last 20 years. She learned some good lessons during her years of legal practice and continues to learn new and different lessons almost every day.
“Listen. Don’t assume. Ask questions, even the dumb ones. Be prepared. Recognize that after three (or so) years of law school, you are starting over AGAIN. Your word is inviolate, so make it count.”
Annita Menogan. Annita Menogan is currently Of Counsel with Fortis Law Partners LLC. She has practiced for over 30 years, principally in securities and general corporate law. Prior to joining Fortis, Annita was most recently Chief Legal Officer of Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Inc.
“Modern law practice is changing but there are important aspects of it that are timeless – clients like working with lawyers they can trust and who care about them. There are still many unmet legal needs in our community – so don’t forget your creativity when you ponder what kind of legal services you will provide. Make sure to get involved with a bar association and spend time learning from your colleagues, we are all in this practice together!”
Barbara Cashman. Barb Cashman is a solo elder and estate lawyer and mediator in Centennial who has been blogging for a few years now. She is a past chair of the SSF section of the CBA and is a regular attendee at the CBA Trusts & Estates and Elder Law Sections’ probate day.