Am curious – what advice would you give a new grad starting out in your role? This post has 10 lessons I’ve learned over my time practising law for the last 21 years.
Am really pleased to have Sophie Tremewan join our team this month to share in our focus on purpose driven organisations, getting legal structures right, draft contracts where they are legally safeguarded and help them raise capital from investors. Sophie is also becoming a property law expert through her work with Judith Bullin – useful skills!
Am so glad to work with an amazing team which is growing, and are the only reason I am able to do the things I am involved in. Thank you Aislinn Molloy, Michael Belay Sophie Tremewan and Emma Hayes!
There are 10 pieces of advice I had for her as she starts out (really reminders for myself … ):
- Add value. Always ask ‘how can I make things better’, by doing more than is expected or requested. If you are asked to write a memo, draft the cover email that you know is going to be needed as well. If you mention a resource to someone over a coffee or on a call, follow up by emailing them a link later. If a client has a problem, think about whether they are asking the right questions or if there are other issues they haven’t though about yet. Be proactive.
- Be curious. Law school prepares you to think logically but not to deal with the reality of legal practise. There are going to be questions you get asked that you don’t have the answers to. Some of them will seem very dull (“What is the origin of section 22 of the Trusts Act 2019?”). But every question is a chance to learn something new, so approach them like greeting an old friend with enthusiasm and curiosity and soon enough you will discover that answering those dozens and hundreds of questions will build up over time into a foundation on which you can stand firm.
- Be efficient. Learn to use time well and in particular look for those bits of time that are wasted. Have a commute? Perfect time to call prospective clients who want to talk. Have an interest in a subject area? Why not write a white paper about it and become known as an expert in that and reach out to others you admire to ask for their views.
- Be creative. Following on from that last one always be looking to infuse your work with creativity too. Add a quote from a poet to that article you are writing. Spend time thinking about the cover image on the guide “Capital Raising key legal issues”. We are lawyers, but we can be creative in how we express ourselves too. I like how Seth Godin puts it this way: “The distance from can to will keeps getting larger. You can connect, lead, see, speak, create, encourage, challenge and contribute. Will you?” I did a short episode on creativity here.
- Seek impact. We are lucky to meet amazing founders and purpose driven people and get to help catalyse impact for them to achieve things and that is a great privilege. Actively consider the areas you want to become known for and become an expert in that. Becoming an impact driven lawyer is possible (a short talk on that here).
- Assumptions are dangerous. Be careful when relying on an assumption about an answer, what a client wants, what someone implied or how long something will take to prepare. You’ll get experience over time but until then always be wary about assumptions.
- Own mistakes. Yes they will happen. Acknowledge them and apologise and learn from them, but then move on and don’t let them drag you down over and over by playing on an internal repeat loop. I once emailed a “reply all” by mistake that went to 8,000 people! When I interviewed Michael Mayell for seeds podcast here he described mistakes as the compost from which success will grow. I really like that.
- Relationships are key. Think of it like a spiderweb where we are all interconnected in some way – everyone in that web has value and one day you may be able to help them (or they could help you).
- You are a leader. Think of yourself as a leader right from the outset because you are – at the very least lead one person, yourself. So start there and that mindset will help you grow and contribute…
- Have fun. I started my career in 2001 so have been doing this a while. It’s important to not let the pressure of work outweigh the having fun part . . .