Five Things You Should Know as a New Attorney

By Clark S. Gardner

In the last two years, I have learned countless lessons while working in civil litigation. I thought it might be valuable to share some of these lessons with other young litigators. 

  1. Communicate with Clients Frequently. I have learned that clients love—and rely on—regular communication. This is important for multiple reasons. First, we have an ethical duty to keep clients reasonably informed about the status of their cases.  See URPC 1.4(a)(3).  Next, clients simply deserve to know what is happening. Litigation might be one of the worst experiences a client ever goes through. They should not be left in the dark—wondering what is happening or when their lawyer will get back in touch with them. Lastly, important advice or communication with a client should be reduced to an email or letter. If a client were to make a malpractice against me, I would want to have as much in writing as possible.
  1. Learn How to Work With and Appreciate Staff. Paralegals and assistants are vital—and I mean vital—to litigation success. It is critical to learn what they do, ask them for help, and appreciate them for saving your bacon…over and over and over.
  1. Be Thorough. I am relied on by partners to not miss things in documents and other papers. Whether good or bad for our case, I need to know what is in the documents. So, naturally, I need to spend the necessary time reviewing and becoming familiar with the documents.
  1. Grant Extensions. Unless it will prejudice or otherwise harm your client, you should freely grant extensions. Why? Well, first of all, it’s the courteous thing to do. But second, what goes around comes around. You’ll need an extension at some point. Trust me.
  1. Remember to Take Care of Yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself, your representation of the client won’t be as effective. This can be tricky, especially if you have a yearly billable hour requirement or other constraints on your time. My advice is to take care of yourself by getting enough sleep and minimizing stress wherever possible.

The life of a new attorney can be stressful, but I hope these tips will help eliminate unnecessary stress. 

Clark S. Gardner