Friday, September 12, 2014

Week 3 of Lawyer Life

Friends, I have made it through three full weeks of more or less being an attorney (just waiting on the law license to make it official)! I like my job so much, even on days like today when I spent the majority of the day poring over financial spreadsheets for clients calculating payments owed to them under consent orders and postnuptial agreements. I learned today that there's a really easy way to become the most popular person in the office, and that's to bring in Krispy Kreme doughnuts on a Friday morning. D. said, "Lauren, you're setting a precedent--now we're going to expect these from you every Friday!" But they got devoured, as I predicted, because people in my law firm really like to eat (I mean, it's true). They make fun of me because they say I never eat anything, which is so not true, but I don't blame them for thinking that because I'm usually way more focused on trying to be professional and carry on a good conversation than on actually eating when we go to lunch together.

I'm also trying to bond with every single person in the firm and not get all clique-ish with my own practice group or, worse, only hang out with the other attorneys and ignore our amazing paralegals and support staff. I'm not sure if it's particularly common for our attorneys to invite paralegals to lunch, but I did this week, because I figured even if that's not done too often, there's no harm in putting myself out there and showing that I'm willing to connect with everybody. I also coordinated a group lunch with "the other side of the hall," aka, the guys in the business litigation group that I would rarely see otherwise.

I've gotten used to wearing a suit, pantyhose, and heels every single day, and now whenever I'm off work I pretty much only want to throw on a T-shirt or something and make no effort at all because I have to be so polished the rest of the time. I've drunk more coffee in the last three weeks than I probably ever have before, because I am not a big coffee drinker, but now every morning I get myself coffee in the break room because that's pretty much what everyone else does. I've found myself getting more and more refills lately during the day, which probably means I'm starting to need my caffeine, but oh well. I also went to a bar association breakfast on Thursday morning and have filled up my calendar for the next month with bar events, young lawyers' events, and seminars on various family law topics.

I've been very focused for the last three weeks on making sure I get started on the right foot and start building a very good reputation quickly, because you don't get to "fix" a bad reputation later. I want to be known around the office as someone who is dependable, personable, professional, and able to do excellent work. I've also been trying to work on "soft skills" for the office, which are things like taking initiative, volunteering to pitch in on projects when you see there's a need, being friendly to everyone and taking time to talk to others so people feel like you're part of the team, remembering other people's interests and likes and dislikes, etc. For example, if you know your boss is particularly interested in a certain new development in an area of child custody, sending him or her a thoughtful article on the topic that you just read is totally a soft skill, because it shows that you're tuned in and thinking of them. Keeping track of what's important to others is a soft skill. For example, I noticed that my boss has someone's birthday noted on his calendar pretty much every day, so I kind of figured that remembering people's birthdays is important to him, and made a mental note of that. It was his birthday on Monday, and he was out of the office for a couple days, but when I saw him next on Wednesday, I made sure to tell him happy birthday and he seemed really pleased that I remembered. And let's be real, I brought the doughnuts today because it was one of my soft skill development goals for the week, not just because I wanted to be nice.

I still have new-girl worries a lot and have had some freak outs about very minor things (such as, is it ok to text my boss? Because it's 8:00 on Sunday night and I need to know if we're meeting in court tomorrow or at the office and then driving together. So I sent the text, and to my relief, she wasn't like, oh for Pete's sakes it's the weekend and please don't bother me . . . although I'm not sure why I was so worried she would say that in the first place). It's still so early in the job that I honestly get really excited when either one of the two partners I work with says something as simple as "See you tomorrow Lauren!" because I think, "Whew, they still want me to come back tomorrow!"

Every day at this job I am reminded that you really never know unless you try. I've had a lot of moments when I pause and look around my office and think, "I cannot believe I actually work here!" I had had my eyes on a job at this firm since late last fall but I kept thinking, "There is no way they will ever hire ME--no way. I'm too young and have virtually no experience and they don't hire people right out of law school anyway." I am so, so glad that I woke up on a morning in January this year and decided to just try and sent them my resume. That was the best thing I could have done, because you just don't know what will happen. And even though I am the youngest lawyer there by at least 5 years and one of the only women and by far the least experienced, they still gave me a chance and I hope I get to spend a long, long time there making everybody happy that they took a chance on me.

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