Are you a young lawyer or law student preparing for a summer associate position? Make sure you stay professional—here’s how:
There are many important aspects of graduating from being a student to being a career professional. How do you become your professional self? Law School Toolbox’s own Lee and Alison did an awesome podcast episode about professionalism in the workplace, and here were some of their best suggestions:
Know that Others are Watching You
This is an overarching tip for you throughout your entire legal career – know that you are always being monitored, even passively. Be careful what you talk about or do in the office, or even outside of the office, especially if you are with coworkers or have to work the following day. You just never know what is going to come back to haunt you in the future. While private lives should stay private, lawyers are often held to a higher standard. Another aspect of being monitored is the hours that you keep as a young lawyer. Lee and Alison bring up the point that not all law firms keep the same hours. Say that everyone else comes into the office at 10 am, but you arrive at 8 am. If no one sees you there, but they all see you leave early, it might not reflect well on you. It may sound unfair, but it’s all part of being new to the office – dues have to be paid no matter where you go.
Save the Drama for Your Mama
Another thing that young lawyers sometimes forget is how their actions may come across to their coworkers. If a young lawyer has a flair for drama or enjoys gossiping, that could reflect negatively on them. This could be due to the disruption they are causing in the workplace. Save all of that for your home life – you’ll be better off.
On a related note, using good judgment on what you say in the office is also incredibly important. When personal lives are kept private, you may not know a lot about your coworkers, so you may not know what could offend or anger them. If you’re not sure something is appropriate for the office, it’s probably best to keep it to yourself. Or, again – save it for your home life.
Check Your Entitlement
Something that Lee and Alison brought up on the podcast is the fact that most young lawyers and law students now are considered millennials. Millennials have the bad reputation of carrying a sense of entitlement with them, even when they are on the lowest rung of the corporate ladder. The thing about being new is that you will likely have to do some tasks that you feel are beneath you – making copies, working on the weekends, etc. It happens, and you really have to remember that there are many law school graduates who are unemployed. Many of them would take your job if you’re unwilling to do it as required.
Be Mindful of Your Appearance
It’s always good to follow the dress code – that’s a standard rule. Not everyone wears suits, but you shouldn’t expect to get to wear jeans as a young lawyer either. While each firm is different, you want to be prepared for any situation, such as getting called into court at the last minute, as Lee and Alison point out. It wouldn’t reflect well on you if you couldn’t go to court to do your job because you were dressed too casually that day, would it?
The Internet (Including Email) is Forever
Another thing to keep in mind as a young person is that the field of law is always changing – that includes how the internet is regarded in court. The internet and everything that is said on it is forever – once it’s out there, there will always be a way to retrieve it. This includes email! So be very careful how you use the internet during work hours. If you have a company computer, treat it with respect.
Be Your Own Authentic Self
All of these tips are great, but the piece of advice that stuck out the most to me when I was listening to Lee and Alison’s podcast was the idea of being your own authentic self in the workplace. When you are comfortable in your own skin you exude more confidence and people find you to be more genuine. These are both important aspects of the perception of a person, and ensuring that you’re being the real you at work will help you succeed. As long as you act professional at the same time, you are good to go!
Were these tips helpful? Do you have any other tips for professionalism in the legal workplace? Let us know in the comments!
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