How to Avoid the Top 5 Mistakes of New Attorneys

Legal Compliance Resource
June 27, 2014 — 1,983 views  

How to Avoid the Top 5 Mistakes of New Attorneys

As industry experts will tell you, there is a big difference between being a top-performer in law school and a top-performer at a law firm. Young lawyers are usually very excited to start as associates at their first job. It’s time for the skills they’ve learned from years of schooling to pay-off. Despite having excellent analytical skills and vast knowledge of the law, young lawyers are prone to mistakes when they start that can put their career in jeopardy. This article highlights common mistakes young associates make when they begin at a new firm and how to avoid them.

Missing the bigger picture
Young attorneys are usually so engrained in executing particulars of projects, they miss the larger business goal. Heavy workloads can make it difficult for young attorneys to try and improve processes. One of the ways companies are combating this is by teaming up young associates with upper management in mentor programs. This increases their visibility with management, but also helps them see the business bottom line from a higher-level perspective. 

Forgetting to double-check work
No matter how good a young attorney may be at analyzing data, if they do not spell-check their work it doesn’t matter. Making small grammatical mistakes and spelling errors reflect poorly on young associates. It shows sloppy work and gives the impression of being unorganized and not detail-oriented. When it comes to law documents and even email, messing up one minor word can change the meaning of a sentence. It’s important to always double-check work. Many companies encourage young employees to check each other’s work before turning it into a manager.

Poor attitude
If a young employee doesn’t show they are eager to work and learn more about the firm, it severely affects how management views them. A poor attitude can negatively affect how management views a young associate. Top assignments will go to associates who express a desire to learn. The reason why management takes attitude into account is because they view it in accordance with future client reactions. A rule of thumb for young associates is to treat management and superiors like they are clients.

Covering up mistakes
Nothing makes a young associate less trustworthy than when they try to hide mistakes. It’s expected for young attorneys to make mistakes and look to superiors for help. Owning mistakes and taking action to fix them shows integrity and initiative to upper management. Of course, they should do their best to avoid making the same mistake twice, but typically it’s better to fess up before it gets worse.

Not asking for feedback
Asking for regular feedback is important for young attorneys because it shows superiors they are eager to learn and can handle criticism. A lot of times, firm partners won’t tell young associates when they’ve made a mistake. Asking for feedback is important for young associates to grow and not continue making the same mistakes unknowingly. Getting regular feedback is the main way young attorneys learn to fix their negatives and improves their strengths. 


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