From Law School to Passing the Bar … and Beyond
Practicing Law for a newly-minted attorney can be like
navigating in a cesspool of chaos and darkness that
swallows you in.
— Anonymous Attorney
Preparedness is an ever-ready challenge in the professional life of a new lawyer that recently passed the state bar exam. The first five years are all about learning the rigors as you get that all-important work experience and become a veteran in the court system of law in your state. You will discover on your pathway that preparedness is essential to the universal law of orderly progress. See where you fit in by walking through the seven steps of the Preparedness Challenge.
A new freshly minted attorney practicing in Southfield, Michigan, had this to say – “I became a lawyer because I like to write, I’m analytical, and I like to argue. Plus I thought I would follow in my father’s footsteps. However, I didn’t like anything about Law School; and my biggest challenge as a new lawyer is working everyday knowing that I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time. If I knew then what I know now, would I still be excited about becoming a lawyer? I doubt it!”
This is a problem that every new attorney must confront – The Preparedness Challenge!
Preparation is preliminary to any kind of worthwhile achievement. The refinement process is cultivated through preparation. Preparedness is the path of earned personal efforts. Preparedness is preliminary to all forms of successful achievement in development, unfoldment, and constructive growth. This makes preparation the key ingredient to success.
The Preparedness Challenge
- May be willing – but unable!
- Unprepared for too many eventualities
- Unable to manage the matter correctly
- Unable to acquire the measured increase of preparation
- Do it anyway – but fail to fulfill the requirements of the responsibility
- It is conscientious to “Know Thy Limits”
- Bridge the gap
Excellence is the result of preparedness. An expert has prepared herself to do extraordinary things, or ordinary things in an extraordinary manner. This especially applies in learning to practice law. A particular limitation that constantly confronts and frequently impedes, is lack of preparedness. This situation creates many difficulties and numerous obstacles to overcome. The daily challenge can be daunting.
Each Individual has a process of training peculiar and necessary to himself. Each person requires a variety of experiences as preparation for future activities. From a given set of experiences an individual receives a lesson suited to his or her development and preparation.
Learning the trade of law is a process that cannot be short circuited. It is a marathon, and one must pace oneself in the daily learning experiences as preparedness is seemingly and actually, continual and ongoing.
It could be stated that– “It takes the average lawyer five years of practice before arriving at a comfort-ability of preparedness that suits the everyday nature of the job.” And I think it would be difficult to argue against that statement.
Let’s walk the seven steps of the preparedness challenge and see if we can bridge the gap at the end. To begin –
Step 1: May Be Willing, but Unable
This problem confronts every novice to a new trade. If unable means permanent inability then that is that. But if Unable means to you, lack of learning, obstacles and detours—then press on.
Find a mentor. Soak up knowledge like a sponge.
Preparation is the sure way to go from unable to able.
Step 2: Unprepared for too Many Eventualities
You have to be comfortable in chaos. Practicing law and juggling the many responsibilities of carrying a full case load can be overwhelmingly daunting for a new-comer. Scale back your expectations to do the things you know well. Lean on the support mechanisms within the social environment to traverse the unknown.
Preparedness is the key to managing a myriad of eventualities.
Step 3: Unable to Manage the Matter Correctly
Sometimes you may find that you are out of your league so to speak. But yet you have to keep on playing as an amateur to everyone else’s professional skill. How do you manage to navigate these rough waters?
It is critical to know yourself, how you go about learning and understanding things, and grasping new concepts, changes in the laws that relate to your job as an attorney, etc.
If you can’t manage matters correctly on a consistent basis then you would be advised to reach out for support and guidance within your organization. If you happen to be a solo practicing attorney or in a small office of a couple or a few employees, then you must overcome this obstacle in order to be an efficient leader with your staff. In a big office setting you can eventually find your niche and fit in to the overall organization. But in a small office much of the responsibilities from a whole cross-section of organizational needs will fall on you.
Preparedness is the key to managing matters correctly.
Step 4: Unable to acquire the measured increase of preparation
It’s just not going to happen then . . .
Skip this step, only if you have a passion and belief in what you are doing. Otherwise you are at a dead-end. (So go to Step 7 and “Bridge The Gap”.)
Step 5: Do it anyway – but fail most often to fulfill the requirements of the responsibility
This is how work experience learning is earned, especially for the novice attorney. There is no way to get around it—you have to do it to earn your stripes. Entrepreneurs in all fields of endeavor can attest to this fact.
It is an awful feeling to know you are doing the best you can with what you know, but still fail to fulfill most of the requirements of your job responsibility. But don’t let this deter you from forging ahead.
Preparedness develops from doing. Knowledge is gained from experience by doing. Do it anyway!
Step 6: It is conscientious to “Know Thy Limits”
This is a world of specialization. You can’t know everything and be everything. One has to focus on their specialty. This is why it is conscientious to know thy limits.
Preparation or preparedness is not just about knowing things, but perhaps even more so of knowing the things you don’t know, knowing your limits. This is true perspective.
Step 7: Bridge The Gap
Who do you know that knows what you need to know?
Who do you know that can do what needs to be done, that you cannot do yourself?
What beneficial service can you offer in return for helpful key service from others?
Bridging the gap is all about connecting with others in your personal, professional network to get things done efficiently and effectively.
Meeting the Preparedness Challenge in the Field of Law
When you have mastered the details involved in the vocation of specialized law, then you are thoroughly prepared for more difficult tasks and greater proficiency in execution. But this takes time, with proficiencies earned on a daily/weekly basis. Being fresh in the field and just starting out is a challenge, but it is a challenge that you can meet by always being prepared to the best of your abilities at a given time.
So take heed all you young attorneys just starting out, and the fresh new arrivals from law school studying to pass the bar—You have chosen a field that demands preparation and preparedness. Now it’s up to you to meet the challenge.