Monday, October 6, 2014

Learning How to Be a Lawyer

I realized today that my bosses are probably ready for some ALONE TIME and are probably kind of tired of having an incredibly eager and inquisitive fake associate (not real till I'm licensed) follow them around and ask them tons of questions and ask permission to sit in on all their meetings and go to all their events with them. I don't have a ton of work to do yet and I certainly don't have my own cases yet (I probably won't have those till January or so), so I'm always looking for ways to just jump in and find work for myself. I know that sometimes D. and E. probably don't have time at the moment to walk me through how to do whatever project needs doing, so there's definitely some down time, some days more than others. But I've decided to set myself apart by taking a ton of initiative and just finding ways to bring value to the team (yep, in case you're wondering, that is a soft skill I'm working on). 

I've made it my habit to look at their Outlook calendars every morning, see what meetings they have going on (typically with clients, but sometimes with opposing counsel too), and then ask if I can sit in on those meetings. Then, during the meetings, I am taking lots of notes and listening the whole time to see if there is follow-up work to do (because there almost always is). Today, for example, I got myself work for the whole day by using this technique. I sat in on a meeting this morning with a client, and E. was saying that our next step would be to draft a parenting plan. So, naturally, after the meeting I'm like, "I'll go ahead and draft the parenting plan for [Client], so we can get the ball rolling on that." Then she asked me to also do the client's child support worksheet, and I told her I didn't really know how to do those (100% true) but that I would try. So I did most of the parenting plan and then realized I had to just tackle this whole child support worksheet thing. I didn't really know where to begin, so I just started looking at some examples from other cases, and then started picking through the entire file to get all the financial information I needed. (One thing I love about being a lawyer is how much you get to snoop into stuff that, but for your job, would be none of your business!) So, one way or another, I finished the child support worksheet, so we'll see. Virtually all the drafting I've done so far has been something I have never written before, because these cases tend to be much more complex than the cases I worked on at previous jobs. Many of them have lots of assets and business valuation and appraisals and amortization schedules and qualified domestic relations orders and refinancing and second mortgages and a whole lot of other stuff going on. (I feel like I'm doing great right now just based on the fact that I know what all those things mean. One step at a time.) 

Here are my work-related goals for the moment: 1) Get more involved in strategic case planning and decision-making, as opposed to carrying out just black-and-white tasks with a yes or no answer, like simple research questions. I recently dove into some of this strategic planning and research for a case with major jurisdictional issues, and it felt really good to be giving my input to some of the actual lawyering--the thought process, the decisions, the assessment of case strategy. 2) Make friends with family law attorneys in other firms to start making a name for myself in the broader legal community here--basically, just putting myself out there and letting people know I'm a brand new addition to the family law scene and am planning to practice here for as long as I can. 3) Start providing valuable information to my colleagues--in the form of the latest relevant articles, the latest cases, new legislation we need to be looking into, etc. I'm going to all these family law seminars for a reason, and I need to be passing on what I learn to others. There is so, so much I still don't know, but I want to be someone who's sharing what I learn with others.

Well, I've been reading all those articles and books about careers for years now and I am having so much fun finally putting some of that into practice. And now it is time for bed because I'm now incapable of staying up past 11pm. Have a good night!

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