REPEAT SERIES ON WHAT THEY DON’T TEACH YOU AT LAW SCHOOL III: THRIVE & SURVIVE: (UPDATED) GUIDANCE FROM NEW SOUTH WALES

This is a repeat of a series first published in 2107. It  is designed to help lawyers, and litigators in particular, in the initial stages of practice. We will be looking at guidance from around the world.   Many of the problems that young lawyers face are universal. In this post I am encouraging you to read guidance from Australia, New South Wales to be precise. The guide is aimed at students and young lawyers, but every practitioner will find something of benefit

 

HOW TO SURVIVE AND THRIVE

This is a guide produced by the Young Lawyers group of The Law Society of New South Wales.  You will struggle to find anything better, in terms of layout, graphics and, most important of all, content.  The post was based on the original text. There is now a second edition, available here. 

THINKING OF STUDYING LAW: READ THIS TOO

The guide starts with the matters that have to be considered before a budding lawyer goes to university, the advantages of taking a gap year and the costs of studying.  Some of this applies only to Australia, most of the issues are universal.

THE GAP BETWEEN STUDY AND PRACTICE

Read the guidance from the Honourable Justice Parker in which he recounts how a recent graduate was working for a law firm and was shown around a partner’s home.  He was surprised to see a Picasso in the partner’s study.

“Gosh, sir,” he blurted out. “That’s a real Picasso, isn’t it? It must have cost an absolute fortune!”
“It certainly did,” replied the partner, putting a paternal hand on the young man’s shoulder . “And if you buckle down to hard work, my boy, put in fifteen to sixteen hours a day six days a week, forget about having a life and give yourself body and soul to the firm, in five years’ time, I’ll be able to buy another one”

This guide is worth reading just for Justice Parker’s guidance alone. Think about what kind of lawyer you want to become.

“The successful lawyer has a smile and a pleasant word for the office staff. He or she is always willing to help less experienced colleague with advice and is courteous and reasonable in dealings with opponents.
Not only that, he or she looks for opportunities to use the law for more than just his or her own financial gain – in pro bono work for some cause that really excites his or her passions. Why is that kind of lawyer successful? Because that lawyer does not have a bitterness in life which infects everything he or she does in court or in chambers or in the office. That lawyer is not always looking for an excuse to pounce on someone and bite, hoping to spread the infection of misery. Opponents like that lawyer because he or she doesn’t make unreasonable demands and is pleasant to deal with while being firm in protecting the interest of the client. Judges like that lawyer because he or she doesn’t waste time in court on silly disputes about things that don’t really matter, just for the sake of having an argument. And most importantly, clients like that lawyer and want to keep coming back because the atmosphere in that lawyer’s office or chambers always seems reassuring rather than stressful and the transactions or cases which that lawyer is handling seem to have generally successful, cooperative outcomes rather than becoming litigious nightmares in which everything goes wrong at enormous expense”

YOUR FIRST TWO YEARS IN PRACTICE

A useful section, from the point of view of this series, in the guidance given on the first two years in practice.

The guide makes a point that has been said on this site more than once.

“If you make a mistake, own up to it immediately so that the appropriate action can be taken by your supervisor. Ideally, research a way in which the mistake can be rectified, so that you can approach your supervisor with the mistake and the remedy. Far better to own up early, advise the client that there has been a problem, make an apology and explain what you are doing to remedy that problem rather than deal with a formal complaint to the Office of the Legal Services Commissioner. However embarrassing the short-lived humiliation, it is better than a permanent mark on your record and perhaps a civil suit for negligence.
“The public, more often than not, will forgive mistakes, but it will not forgive trying to wriggle and weasel out of one.”

There are tips on:

  • Dealing with your supervisor.
  • Dealing with secretaries.
  • Time management.
  • Meeting your billable target.
  • What to record on your time sheet.
  • Your first day in court.
  • How to deal with a difficult supervisor.
  • Stress management.
  • Reducing stress.
  • Burnout.
  • Sexual harassment
  • Workplace bullying.
  • Resigning from your job.

FISH FILES STRETCH AROUND THE GLOBE

The purpose of this post is to get you to read the entire guide.  One section shows that the problem of fish files is international.

 It is an unfortunate fact of life that most practitioners will at some point be faced with a file they simply cannot face. When this happens the situation can feed on itself, causing more stress – the factor which may have caused the freeze in the first place. The longer the file is avoided the more difficult it can be to address…The longer you leave it, the harder that file becomes. Often, once you start what appears to be a daunting task, it is not quite as bad as you imagined. Breaking it in to many little tasks can also help make it less daunting”