Things I Wish I Had Known When I Was a Junior Lawyer


Things I Wish I Had Known When I Was a Junior Lawyer

By Doron

The work that my colleagues at Strevas and I do with some of our legal sector clients often makes me reflect on my time as a lawyer in private practice.

The way I perceived my role and responsibilities as a junior lawyer at the start of my career seems so at odds with what I know and understand now about being a legal professional and the work it entails.

The benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing and I would clearly not be where I am today but for making some good decisions and, alongside that, making a whole lot of mistakes. Still, there are several aspects of being a junior lawyer that I wish I could send a note to my younger self about from the future, with a few ‘heads up’ tips, to set that fledgling youngster up for success.

Entering the legal profession as a trainee solicitor can be a daunting prospect. The role comes with great responsibility, a steep learning curve and long hours. Below are some of my musings on things I can now see I could have done with a different perspective on at the time as well as when, having qualified, I took on the role of a junior solicitor.

Demystifying Business Development

As a junior lawyer, business development may seem like a distant and somewhat overwhelming concept. That said, it is essential to understand it early on. Developing business is not just about bringing in clients, especially not when you are at the very start of your career. It’s really helpful to think about it in terms of having good conversations with people and slowly building meaningful connections and relationships with existing (as well as potential) clients, colleagues and other professionals.

Start by identifying your strong points as well as your areas of interest. You might be really good at writing articles, for example, or connecting socially on LinkedIn and, at the same time, not have time or inclination to attend social events (that’s fine!). Play to your strengths. Focus on what you do well.

If you do attending networking events, seminars, and conferences, don’t put any pressure on yourself “to sell” anything. This means you can focus on making the most of those opportunities, having nice conversations and demonstrating an interest in others. That way you can build your network in a congruent way. It’s ok for this to be a slow process. Rome wasn’t built in a day – it took 448,585 days, in fact!

Taking on Delegated Work More Effectively

My two biggest challenges as a junior lawyer, when being delegated work from others, were task prioritisation and my hesitation to ask questions, for fear I may be perceived as stupid.

It’s obviously so hugely important to prioritise tasks. Different approaches work for different people on this front – prioritisation by deadlines, importance of task or indeed complexity. The circumstances may well require juggling of all three.

The important point is that, in prioritising tasks, you need to communicate with your supervisor so that you can have clarity about their expectations, the scope of the work and any guidelines, templates or precedents you should follow.

Don’t hesitate to ask for clarification or support when needed. No one expects you to know everything about everything from Day 1 and, ultimately, it’s better to perform the task with a full picture of what you’re expected to do and how, rather than making wrong assumptions and having to re-do the work later, which wastes time and can cause frustration both to you and to your supervisors.

Finally, before submitting the work, double-check it for accuracy, grammar and spelling errors. I could kick myself for some of the rookie grammatical errors I made early on in my career, which could have easily been avoided by spending a few more minutes of proof-reading.

Building Habits for Good Practice Early-On

The habits you develop as a junior lawyer can impact your entire legal career. Some habits to consider include:

Time Management: Manage your time efficiently by creating a to-do list, setting deadlines and prioritising tasks.

Continuous Learning: Commit to continuous learning by reading publications that are relevant to your professional interests, attending training sessions and seeking feedback from senior lawyers. Your supervisors are likely to be time-poor and may not remember to give you feedback regularly. Take the lead on that and ask for feedback after every task you undertake – requesting specificity on what you did well and what would make it even better next time.

Collaboration: Learn to work collaboratively with colleagues, support staff and clients. Collaboration leads to better decision-making, fosters creativity and creates a positive work culture.

Reading all this back strikes me as so obvious now. Yet, when I was starting my career, none of these things occurred to me consciously and I am confident that being mindful of them at the time would have aided my professional development and my enjoyment of my work.