Peer to Peer Magazine

December 2012

The quarterly publication of the International Legal Technology Association

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lessons learned Beyond the Bar Exam: The Transition from Law Student to Lawyer by Marcy L. McGovern of Littler Mendelson, P.C. I really enjoyed law school. It was intellectually stimulating, and I was fortunate to be surrounded by engaged classmates and thoughtful professors. The first years of practice, however, served up some valuable instruction in the business aspects of private practice, which neither law school nor the bar exam addressed. Questions I confronted included: Where do I fit into the law firm culture; How do I efficiently prepare a pleading, contract or letter that I've never heard of before; Why do time entries matter; And how do I get clients? While answers to these questions are always evolving, I can share the top five things I learned as I pursued a career path in the private law firm setting. 1. Potential Advisors Exist Throughout the Law Firm When launching a legal career, it seems obvious that first-year associates might be looking for shareholders and/or senior attorneys who will work with them as a "legal mentor" — someone who will be a wise and trusted advisor on how to practice law. Finding such a mentor is incredibly beneficial to both professional and personal development, and such a relationship cannot be overappreciated. As important as the mentor/apprentice relationship is, the relationship I'd prefer to highlight is what I'll call "office culture advisors." Entering private practice as a first-year associate, I had no idea how powerful and important these advisors could be. During my summer associate internship experiences, I was not regularly exposed to the business operations side of the law 106 Peer to Peer firm. Perhaps that's because the summer is really a three-month interview, during which interaction with attorneys is paramount since they will assess your legal aptitude. Looking back, I contend firms should consider adding instruction on the business side of private practice to their summer programs. When considering who might be appropriate office culture advisors, I'm not talking about finding someone who wants to engage in office gossip. To the contrary, I would encourage first-year associates to find professionals who recognize that training a new attorney is a firmwide responsibility. By way of example, allow me to share some of my first encounters with office culture advisors: • A legal secretary informed me that a particular shareholder despised email, and it would be beneficial to start my working relationship with him through in-person meetings. • An IT professional took a moment to thoroughly explain to me the firm's teleconferencing and phone system, which cut down on my time reviewing the user guides. • A person in the word processing department explained why she believed it was important for people on our floor to participate in the Friday breakfast club. On paper, these things might seem trivial. In actuality, these were important insights from employees who had tenure with the firm that far exceeded mine and who took the time to share

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