In this week’s edition of Young, Hungry & Committed, Annapolis, Maryland virtual office lawyer Liz Johnson discusses how she learned to believe in herself and her legal expertise.
So far as a solo lawyer, I have discovered that you are always learning how to improve your skills. There are things that I have done that I need to continue to do more consistently, and there are things that I need to stop doing.
One thing I wish I would stop doing is looking at other attorney’s resume’s and freaking out. I have this horrible habit of being a tad self-deprecating. It’s more than a little.
I just took a case, looked at the other attorney and thought, oh my god, the other attorney is an experienced litigator of many many moons, I am going to get my butt gift-wrapped and handed to me. That’s not necessarily the case, no one should ever think that. Don’t be like me. I’m still working on this.
The Challenge of Being a “New” Lawyer
For a while, I kept telling people I’m still new. Mainly because I wanted people to understand that I’m not a seasoned attorney that can find the necessary case law or statutes at the drop of a hat.
At some point, I read something that stated how as licensed lawyers, we’re all perfectly capable of working on any case. We all know how to read, we all have the basic skills to work a case. The nature of the article was stop thinking that just because you’re a new attorney doesn’t mean you can’t take a case.
Well, I still think that you should feel comfortable with your ability to work certain cases. The case I took recently was a probate case, involving a potential constructive trust. Thankfully I had people to turn to that helped me. The law librarian even stopped to help me find some very useful secondary sources that helped out tremendously.
Other Lawyers Want to Help
I was very nervous taking this case, I didn’t think I could handle it. Still might not, but with so many people allowing me to ask questions, providing tips, guiding me in the right direction, I can’t believe how lucky I am to be surrounded by so many attorneys, law librarians and others who truly care about helping the next generation of attorneys, and who take the time to help new solo practitioners such as myself.
In fact, one such attorney stopped during a break in a trial of his own, to give me advice.
At the end of the day, I think I’m just afraid of the unknown and failing. There is, however, nothing wrong with my research skills. It’s a mild hindrance if you don’t know what you’re looking for, and missing vital key terms, but if you stick with it and get creative, you’ll eventually run into them. It’s just time-consuming, which is why I didn’t want any kind of work that was time-sensitive, just yet.
Moral of the blog is … believe in yourself, and most of the attorneys around you are very nice and willing to help out new solo practitioners. Every lawyer was once a “new” lawyer, and most can relate to those same fears and uncertainties. So be confident in your abilities as a lawyer, and never be afraid to ask for help or advice when you need it.