Advice for New Lawyers

As a new lawyer, there are so many things that you need to process and understand. Certainly, all of this will take time and you should give yourself the time that you need to learn from others and to learn the profession. One of the best ways to learn is by emulating those you admire, so find someone that you look up to already in the firm and try to get a spot under their wing. Here, highly respected lawyers in the field offer other advice as well.

James Donovan, a University of Virginia School of Law Adjunct Professor and a Managing Director at Goldman Sachs, recently offered advice to lawyers in an interview that he has with UVA Lawyers magazine. As he said,

“The most common mistake that people make when they cover clients is they don’t become strategic advisers to their clients. In other words, they don’t take the opportunity to advise the client on matters outside of the matter they’ve been hired to work on. Use the relationship you’ve developed to build a broader relationship.”

He also mentioned that lawyers should ask open ended questions that don’t lend themselves to “yes” or “no” answers. Jim Donovan also explained what it means to put the client first. As he said, “First, be prepared to give the client advice that is not in your interest. There is no better way to establish credibility. If you go to the client and say you shouldn’t do this deal, they know that, as a lawyer, you’ll get paid more the longer it goes on. So you need to advocate hard for positions regardless of what is in your interest.”

As another lawyer, John G. Balestriere explains, clients often want to see their lawyer face to face. As he discussed on the website Above the Law, “When we are all so efficient, providing quick edits on our iPhone on the 4 train from downtown to Grand Central, or responding quickly to emails from the bathroom when we’re on a date, it’s easy to forget the value of not quality time, but quantity time with clients. I’m not saying we do a slumber party over our client’s home on the weekend and watch “When Harry Met Sally.” However, serious, unscheduled, and, perhaps most importantly, unguarded time with clients helps them really open up and, if you respond well, trust you. The more that they trust you, the more that they will share with you, the more they will help you figure out their goals and serve them better.”

Hopefully, these interesting perspectives from James Donovan and John G. Balestriere will help you on your way towards a successful career.