Some Advice to the New, or Soon to be Lawyer

Your first year as a lawyer will be one of the most stressful you will ever face.6 min read

Your first year as a lawyer will be one of the most stressful you will ever face.

No, that's not quite right. Your first year as a lawyer will be the most stressful you will ever face. Even your first year in law school won't quite compare, because there, at least, you were your own taskmaster. You could in some small way control the day-to-day goings-on in your frantic rush to master those Byzantine rules of law swirling about. In real law, you'll have no such luxuries.

Well, that's not quite right, either. You will have fairly broad minute-by-minute control over your workday, but at a steep price: the pressure on you to rack up the hours and finish the rapid procession of projects will make each of those minutes seem like ungrateful brats zooming past. As young professionals in every discipline soon learn, your life is not your own.

Physicians are expected to attend to their patients based upon the exigencies of medicine and chronic understaffing, not a clock. Editors are captives to the tempo of similar clocks, while accountants count to the rhythm of snootier brethren, calendars, to meet periodic deadlines, which only serve to focus the energies of workaholic executives, who take their frustrations out on overworked, underappreciated, and unrealistically deadlined engineers. Few are spared. And you. You will be expected to serve the needs of your clients.

This is both better--and worse--than it sounds. Better because being King's counsel has its privileges. Worse because the King can be--and often is--both demanding and unforgiving. In this legal feast, surviving the peril of Damocles is tricky, at best.

I want to tell you what you will face because, in part, no one ever told me. My first year as a junior associate was miserable, not only because of the stress inherent to the experience, which I truly didn't mind, but also because of the uncertainty that came with a nearly complete lack of guidance, which I did.

I had been a Texas Law Review editor, which did little to ease my initiation to law practice. In some ways, it made things worse. Thus, one justification for this book is that ever-familiar concept of notice. (Our profession is one of the worst violators of this doctrine, which we happily foist on others.)

Despite--or perhaps because of--my many missteps, this book should prove helpful to you, the eager new law graduate, who, with your compatriots, will populate law offices of all varieties from sea to shining sea. Whether in big firms, small firms, courts, agencies, corporate suites, or the military, the principles in this book apply to all.