Word for Word
What advice would you give to young attorneys today?
Published in 2011 Southwest Super Lawyers magazine
on April 14, 2011
Updated on April 28, 2011
What I tell young lawyers is that what we’re doing as family lawyers is trying to help our clients move on with their lives after the divorce in a productive manner.
Sometimes that takes some creativity and thinking outside of the box. Frequently, settling cases is a much better way of resolving family law issues than litigation. It’s better to be smart and creative than loud and abrasive and aggressive if you can resolve a case and have the parties build respect and care for each other.
You only have one reputation, protect it carefully. Once you lose it, you’re never going to get it back. So it’s [important] to always be honest and straightforward. … You learn from experience. The bottom line is you want to make it a win-win situation for both sides, if at all possible.
Shareholder at Karp & Weiss
Your reputation is everything.
[Young attorneys should] want to be the lawyer out there who the judge trusts and knows that whatever that lawyer says, they can take to the bank. The best lawyers are civil to one another and simply agree to disagree. A lot of times, I think young lawyers think that if they’re really a jerk, that makes them the stronger advocate, but really that’s not the case. … Be a good loser. Even if you lose a motions hearing or a trial, go up to the other side, shake their hand, say they did a good job, even if it kills you.
Be true to yourself. There’s so many lawyers out there now who are unhappy. And I think a lot of it is because they’re in jobs that are not right for them. I always try to encourage young lawyers to not feel like they’re stuck, that there’s so many things that the law can offer them. … If in their heart of hearts, they’re really not happy, I would hope that they would have the confidence to go and find something else for their skills.
The last [piece of advice] is to have a life. The best lawyers are the ones who have a life, and who can relate to jurors who have a life, and they have a better understanding of what arguments work with the juries and don’t work. And more importantly, it’s very important to have a life whether or not it would make you a good advocate. [Laughs]
Wendy Ellen York
Of Counsel at Sheehan & Sheehan (and former trial court judge in the Civil Division of the Second Judicial District Court in Albuquerque)
With the economy so uncertain, especially as to certain practice areas, it is more important than ever for young lawyers to try to develop, within their practice areas, at least one or two areas that are less likely to be affected by economic swings.
Realize that it’s nothing personal, but that it is no longer the automatic or seemingly guaranteed market for young lawyers that it once was. … It’s no longer young lawyers coming in with a “Show Me the Money” attitude, but firms who are saying “Show me your skill set, your efficiency, your ability to learn and grow, and then I might invest the time and effort into helping you be all that you can be.”
Firms have less room to make mistakes with younger lawyers. There will be less hiring of multiples of lawyers in the expectation that only a fraction will stick. This means that if you do get hired, you are more valued than ever before, but there is more incentive to work well and hard so that you avoid the unpalatable prospect of looking for work in a tight economy. There is always someone out there in a tight economy who would love to have your position.
Founder of Bacal Law Group