There are many mistakes common to young lawyers. The young lawyer just coming out of law school soon realizes that law practice is different from academic work. Taking note and avoiding these common errors is key.
Common lawyers’ mistakes can be disastruous. But the truth is that the skills required to practice law are not and cannot be effectively taught in law school, but acquired through actual law practice. Law practice is, therefore, one of those areas that cannot be fully mastered until experienced.
While some lawyers are able to obtain this valuable law practice skills in a short time, others take quite a long while to master them.
Failure to learn these skills on time leads to a lot of common legal mistakes with its attendant consequences.
The following are some of these common mistakes that lawyers should avoid.
Failure to Pupillage.
One of the biggest mistakes young lawyers make is refuse to do some pupillage under an experienced lawyer before venturing out on their own.
The process of becoming a lawyer does not end after law school. While law school deals mostly with the theoretical aspects of law, pupillage deals with the actual practice of law itself.
Pupillage is similar to an apprenticeship. Through pupillage, lawyers get practical work experience immediately after law school
Lawyers who fail or refuse to learn the craft of the trade under a skilled and experienced lawyer is like a man groping around in the dark. Those lawyers may eventually learn the craft, but it will come at a very high cost.
A lawyer is nothing without a good reputation. Lawyers who make a lot of common mistakes, apart from being liable to claims on negligence are bound to lose their clients forever. Also, it takes a shorter time to master legal practice when you learn from a master.
Young lawyers should, therefore, avoid the temptation of going solo immediately after law school without first spending time with an experienced guide and teacher.
Although pupillage is a wonderful idea for young lawyers fresh out of law school, knowing when to move on is important.
Some senior lawyers use young lawyers in such a way that their professional development is delayed or hampered. The best mentorship is the one that allows young lawyers to try their hands on innocuous legal procedures which build the confidence of the young lawyer.
A young lawyer should be exposed to hands-on legal practice. Unfortunately, some young lawyers doing pupilage are only used for ordinary office duties without experiencing any serious legal practice.
Young lawyers should therefore not overstay their pupillage in a law firm where they are not being exposed to actual law practice.
Choosing a Wrong Location
Whenever a young lawyer decides it’s time to break out on his own, choosing the right location can be the difference between success and failure.
There are some important factors to consider when you want to start your own law firm. One of them is to be in a place where your clients can easily see and locate you.
So while experienced lawyers can still thrive even when located in an obscure part of town, a young lawyer is unlikely to survive in a bad location.
Choosing the Wrong Practice Area.
It is understandable when most young lawyers accept any kind of brief that comes their way. After all, the aim of every lawyer is to build up a large clientele and see his/her business thrive.
But in an attempt to accept and handle all briefs, standards are compromised. The truth is that we all have our strong and weak areas. There are lawyers who do not do police or criminal matters no matter how lucrative.
So don’t make the common mistake of venturing into areas you are not comfortable in simply because it is a fat brief. Stick to your strong practice areas and watch your client base grow as you establish yourself.
Not Charging The Proper Fees.
No matter how brilliant you are as a lawyer or how many clients you have, if you do not charge the correct legal fees, your legal practice will hit the rocks.
It is not uncommon these days to see young lawyers accept briefs for only a fraction of the charge only to realize that they are sweating for nothing.
Experience has shown that it is better to have a few cases and charge proper fees than have many cases and compromise your charges.
Look around you the most miserable lawyers are those appear to have a lot of cases but have nothing to show for it.
Some people are correct when they observe that no lawyer has a business with poverty if they charge the correct fees.
Neglecting Personal Development.
Some young lawyers think that once they come out of law school, then there is no need for further education. Wrong!
Continuing legal education is very important to success in legal practice. Enrolling in courses, seminars, lectures, and workshops where you acquire more skills is what sets you apart from the crowd.
The legal field is an evolving one and only those who are up to date can fully take advantage of benefits.
Having Unrealistic Expectations.
Experienced lawyers are always ready to point out that although the legal profession is a lucrative career, you must be patient and be ready to work hard to get there.
Some young lawyers are easily demoralized because they made the mistake of having unrealistic expectations when they entered the profession.
If you are joining the legal profession solely because of the money, then forget it. It is only your passion and dedication to law practice that will take you there and beyond.
Not Having An Investment.
Practicing young lawyers should know that they are not civil servants entitled to benefits later on in their lives.
Lawyers in the course of their legal practice are bound to come into some good money. What you do with your financial success will determine what your future will look like.
There is also the common mistake of thinking that clients will continue to come and business will continue to flourish. The truth is that law practice fluctuates like the rest of the economy.
So while you are still young and making money, make out a business plan and invest some for rainy days.
Spending On The Wrong Things.
For you to be a successful lawyer, you need to realize that some things are essential for your continuous growth.
Many times you see some young lawyers spending their hard-earned money on things that will not add value to them as lawyers.
Focusing and spending on the right things will help you climb the success ladder more quickly. Young lawyers should, therefore, invest in libraries, office equipment, and professional courses/seminars.
Neglecting Your Health.
The problem with young people is their erroneous view that they will continue to be young forever.
Don’t be fooled. The time to begin to take care of your health is when you are young.
Start today to avoid those things likely to jeopardize your health in the future. Don’t wait till you lose your health, you may never recover.
Neglecting Your Social Network.
Every young lawyer should develop and have a wide and broad social network. Your social network is a great avenue to advertise yourself and what you do.
Young lawyers fall into these common mistakes out of ignorance. The mistake of separating oneself from some non-lawyer friends is wrong. Make friends – both lawyers and non-lawyers. Join associations – both legal and non-legal.
As more lawyers join the profession, finding clients will become more difficult. However, those with wide social networks will always find a way through.
The desire to succeed drives many young lawyers to work in overdrive. Working hard is good, but it should not be done because you want to make it big immediately. Being too ambitious comes with some negative costs.
Young lawyers should realize that building a successful career in law takes time. Henry David Thoreau was right when he said:
“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it”.