Karl Heideck’s Guide to Becoming A Successful Lawyer
It takes years for most people to make their way through law school. While it would be nice if law schools prepared their students for the realities facing them in the legal world instead of teaching them just the law basics, it doesn’t seem to be happening.
Here are 8 things every young lawyer should know, according to Philadelphia attorney Karl Heideck.
1. Check Out Your State’s Bar Requirements
Before leaving law school, be sure to check out the bar requirements for any state that you intend to practice law in. For instance, in California, you need to pass or gain exemption from the First-Year Law Students’ Examination. You must also pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination and the California Bar Examination. But, if you’re planning to practice in New York, then you’ll need to take the multistate part of the bar exam at the same time that you take the essay portion, meaning that you cannot decide to retake the essay part later. You’ll have to retake them both. Be prepared for your state’s requirements.
2. Treasure Those Connections
If you’re still in law school, then be sure to make connections with other students, teachers and practicing lawyers. Once you leave school, it’s important to leverage these connections effectively. It’s also imperative that you keep these connections active and working for you. Law is a field where lateral job moves can turn into partnership opportunities. With the right connections, doors that may have been closed to you will open. So, what is the best way to leverage these connections? Instead of staying passive by commenting on social media posts or sending an occasional text, look for ways to meet with people face-to-face. This makes your interactions with them memorable and significant. Keep in mind that connections cover a wide range. You don’t have to invite everyone you know to your summer barbeque, but reach out to old friends at least once a year for lunch to maintain a usable connection.
3. If you Have Questions, Ask Them
When you ask questions, you are showing that you are interested in your job and committed to it. Firms want associates who are determined enough to continue learning and humble enough to accept that they don’t already know everything. Use some caution. While teachers like to say that there is no stupid question, this is not true. The first rule to question asking is to avoid asking something that you should already know the answer to. For instance, if you studied to become a real estate lawyer, don’t ask what fiduciary duty is. If you do, they are likely to wonder how you made it through school and landed a job there. Also, maintain professional boundaries. If a partner has a family photo on display, don’t ask about it.
4. Choose Your Practice Area Carefully
When it comes to selecting your practice area, do it based on your personality. It’s important to like what you do for a living. Make sure that you enjoy the ins and outs of the work in your field of law. Consider lifestyle factors as you select the law area that you intend to practice in. A few law areas feature a work flow that’s steadier and more predictable than others do. Also, keep in mind that some areas of practice are better suited to some personalities, so if you struggle to deal with aggressive people, then litigation is probably not for you.
In this same vein, make sure that you have the right academic background for the law area that you select. If you lack education in finance or accounting, then don’t apply for corporate law firms. The same is true in other areas. For instance, if you didn’t focus your education on the hard sciences, computer science or engineering, then you won’t be prepared to take on science-related intellectual property work.
5. Getting that First Associate’s Position
Grades matter when it comes to securing a summer associate position. Maintain a high grade point average to score the best spot, one that will hopefully transition into a more permanent job. Your second- and third-year law school grades will count when it’s time for you to consider a lateral move to another firm or to a full-time in-house position. This is particularly important if you’re considering litigation. Today’s firms will ask to see your law school transcript when you apply for a lateral attorney position. They may even want this information when you go for a partnership.
6. Know the Lateral Market
Once you graduate from law school, the lateral market changes. It operates differently than the summer associate applicant one. Even if you received a job offer from a firm based on your current skills, the same firm or one that’s comparable may not offer you a lateral position. The bar is higher after graduation. A law firm will only hire you if they need your particular skill set.
7. Don’t Focus on Firm Prestige
The prestige of a law firm is important when it comes to selecting your first one, but it’s less so for lateral moves or long-term positions. In many cases, it’s easier to move up in less prestigious firms. For instance, you may make counsel or partner more quickly than you would in a high-level firm. Assess a firm’s culture, standards and advancement potential when you’re applying for a job.
8. Be Kind to People
While being kind to people is just the right thing to do, keep in mind that with your career, you’ll never know when you’ll run into someone again and in what situation. Job candidates may not receive an offer because they were rude to the receptionist when they arrived for an interview. Like other employment fields, law firms run on a hierarchy, but you should always treat people with kindness and respect regardless of their position.
Once you leave law school to begin your career as a lawyer, you are sure to face challenges. Preparation, establishing solid connections and a willingness to ask questions will help you become a successful lawyer. Choose a practice area that complements your personality and avoid focusing on the prestige of a law firm. By embracing these eight things, you’ll be ready to start your law career.
About Karl Heideck
Karl Heideck is an well-rounded attorney that works in risk management and compliance situations. He is skilled in litigation, legal writing, corporate law, product liability, legal research, and as well as, employment. Karl Heideck has over 10 years of experience under his belt.
Karl Heideck has an impressive educational background to match his experience. He attended the Swarthmore College to study English and Literature. Then Karl Heideck graduated from the Temple University Beasley School of Law. He was an honor student upon graduating.