The transition from law student to lawyer can be tough. How tough?
Well, a 2015 survey by Barbri found that while 71% of law students believed they had sufficient skills to practice law, only 23% of practicing lawyers thought that those new lawyers had sufficient skills to practice law.
A survey by LexisNexis revealed even more dismal results –
95% of hiring partners and associates believed recently graduated law students lacked key practical skills at the time of hiring.
Yikes. If you’re a law student or junior lawyer reading those numbers and feeling nervous about your readiness to practice law or ability to succeed in the workplace, the good news is that you’re not alone.
The bad news is that this disparity and major mismatch of expectations between senior and junior practitioners can lead to a very stressful transition from student to lawyer.
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Let’s be real, the transition from student to lawyer is always going to be a little stressful. The work we do matters – even if just financially – and there is a steep learning curve in your first few years of practice.
But I’m here to flatten that curve a bit for you.
There’s no real substitute for the hard work and the time it takes to learn a substantive area of law, as many of you will be or are doing as new lawyers. But there are strategies you can implement today to make your work life better. And when I talk to law students and new lawyers about their major sources of stress at work, I hear things like:
“I’m way too busy, but I’m afraid to turn down work without blowing up a relationship with the partner.”
“I have no idea how I’m doing. I hand in assignments and never get any feedback. Does this mean I’m doing well, or that I’m beyond hope and about to get fired?”
“My attention to detail sucks, and I keep making little mistakes. How can I stop this?”
I hear similar complaints from the senior attorneys—you know, the ones who told Barbri and LexisNexis that new lawyers aren’t really ready to practice law. They complain about junior lawyers failing to email them back fast enough or turning in work that looks different than what they were expecting.
Now, I could do an entirely separate course on management for lawyers (and I am – look out for Managing for Midlevels later this year). But the truth is that even if you’re stuck working for one of (many) lawyers who are just bad managers who fail to set clear expectations, there is a lot you can do to mitigate their managerial failings to reduce the impact on you.
You’ve probably noted that the common thread running through these complaints from junior and senior lawyers alike is that they’re about the nuts and bolts of professional life.
In fact, the senior lawyers you’re working with usually realize that you’re not walking in the door knowing the ins and outs of whatever niche area of law you’ll be practicing, or how to draft a perfect pleading or deal document right off the bat.
But they do expect (fairly or not) that you have certain office, communication, and professional skills down, and this is the stuff – the organizing, the project and time management, the communication strategies and so on – that I am here to help you learn and implement so you can meet those often unexpressed expectations. (Because again, many lawyers are not great managers!)
That’s what Survive & Thrive is all about – helping you not only survive but thrive in the daily grind of working life as a lawyer.
Because you’ll find that when you take a little time upfront to organize your calendar, or your inbox, or your brain before diving into an assignment, you’ve got more time and more energy to focus on the substantive stuff. And you’ll spend less time stressing about the logistical things.
And when you don’t spend 20 minutes looking for a document on your hard drive while a senior associate waits impatiently, because your files are now well-organized, that’s 20 minutes of your personal time you get back.
And perhaps best of all, when you hand in an assignment that’s exactly what the senior attorney asked for, on the deadline they needed (even if they didn’t do a stellar job communicating their needs to you), you’ve just made an excellent impression on one of your first clients, your boss.
How to set up your personal life for success at work before you start your job (or in a weekend, if you’re already working).
Professionalism and communication tips and expectations, including how to deal with "big personalities" (or, jerks).
How to create and submit excellent work product, including my best tips for legal research and writing.
Simple ways to get and stay organized.
Tactics to improve your productivity & efficiency – helpful whether or not the billable hour rules your life.
How to maintain a good work/life balance, even if you're currently feeling overloaded or working a super demanding job.
How to delegate successfully.
How to manage up.
How to seek and implement feedback.
Along the way, you’ll get scripts for tough communications – like turning down work while maintaining your relationship with a more senior attorney. You'll also get example scripts for lower-stakes communications (on which I’ve seen many a junior lawyer stress), like what to include in your out-of-office email when you go on vacation. (And yes, you can take vacation as a junior lawyer! I’ll walk you through how to plan for it.)
You’ll also get checklists and other handouts developed to help you streamline your daily work life and create good habits to last your entire career.
Who is this course for?
Law students who are gearing up to start legal employment and want to hit the ground running and/or junior lawyers (years 1-3) who could use some help with any or all of the included topics.
Why these topics?
The skills you’ll learn in Survive & Thrive are the ones I’ve seen work for junior lawyers over and over again over the years. They’re the things my colleagues, classmates, and friends say they expect of junior lawyers or wish they themselves had known to do as a junior lawyer. They're also the things that thousands of lawyers from across the country say junior lawyers need to know to succeed at work. A survey conducted by the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, to which over 24k lawyers from all 50 states responded, identified the kinds of qualities, skills, and characteristics junior lawyers need to succeed in the office. I've done the legwork so you don't have to and distilled their responses down into actionable steps you can take to excel in a variety of legal workplaces.
When does the course start and finish?
The entire course is available now and is entirely self-paced, so start it whenever works for you. You can start implementing the tips and advice on day 1, 100, or 1,000 of your job. Take as long as you need to finish the course and re-review modules whenever you want.
How long will I have access to the course?
As long as you, me, and the internet exist! Seriously, while I may revise and improve portions based on feedback from students like you, I plan to leave the course online permanently.
What if I think the course stinks?
I hope you love the course, and I'm confident it can help you at work, but I want to hear your feedback either way. If you're not satisfied, contact me within 30 days of your purchase, and I will give you a full refund. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org.