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Working for a Young Lawyer or a Seasoned Attorney. . . Challenging or Rewarding?

Posted By Paula Steffey, PP,CLP-SC, CWCP, Friday, January 12, 2018
Updated: Thursday, January 18, 2018

Young or Old LawyerFrom my perspective, the answer to this question depends on how you view your own career.


Seasoned attorneys are typically older, possibly having started their law career without computers or with minimal technology, did most of their research at the law library, and worked for a firm with other attorneys while they were mentored and learned their chosen area of law inside and out. They attended seminars in person for their continuing legal education.  The internet was either not around or just beginning for these attorneys. Networking was done the old-fashioned way--a personal phone call or a handwritten note. Building up a clientele took time and patience, and referrals were an important part of their practice.  They took pride in their work and built their reputation.  Success came after they put in the hard work. 


It seems like today’s young lawyers who are fresh out of law school have computers and cell phones attached to their hip at all times.  As close to paperless as possible is their preference.  Continuing legal education can be done via a webinar that they watch during their down time in the evening or weekends.  Networking is done via a text or an email.  Because many young lawyers do their own typing, and therefore feel they do not need any legal support staff, they set up an office as a sole proprietor and do everything themselves including the legal support staff roles and managing the day-to-day business.  They want instant success and some try to practice in many different areas of law rather than learn a chosen area of the law inside and out.


Working for the seasoned attorney can cause frustration when they just can’t get rid of that paper calendar even though you keep their calendar current on the computer.  They attempt to send an email or do their own edits to a letter, but you end up cleaning up the document or even coaching them along until they hit send.  Paperless offices do not exist, but they are trying by at least scanning documents even though they keep the hard copy too.   You may even begin to wonder what you will do for a job when they retire. 


You can turn the challenges into rewards and help secure your career in the future.  I personally have found that the seasoned attorneys want to leave their legacy behind.  They are willing to mentor young lawyers, but also mentor support staff–even if you do not work for them.  I have experienced this first hand when attorneys in other firms have gone above and beyond to help me in my career. If you show an interest in their chosen area of law and make a dedicated effort to improve your skills, these attorneys will mentor you too. They will not only take the time to help you understand what needs to be done, but will help you understand why something needs to be done a certain way.   The more you learn and truly understand, the better you will be and the further you will go with your career goals.  Anyone can fill in a form or transcribe dictation, but understanding why you need to do what you are doing, and the consequences if it is not done correctly, makes for a great legal assistant.   


You can also have a rewarding experience working for or with a young lawyer.  Chances are you have been a legal assistant for a longer period of time than the young lawyer has been an attorney.  You may know what forms need to be completed or what documents need to be sent to the court even if your attorney does not.  You can mentor a young lawyer in many ways and help them be a better attorney.  You can help them build their reputation by making sure the work you do is to the best of your abilities.  Remember, what you do and how you do it is a reflection on them.  They are learning just like you had to learn and they may not thank you now, but they will remember you when they are a seasoned attorney.  And you never know, you may still be working for or with that same young lawyer when he or she becomes a seasoned attorney.



Paula Steffey, PP, CLP-SC, CWCP has been a member of NALS since 2014.  She is currently the chair for the Certification Committee and the Attorney Directory project on the Ways and Means Committee for NALS of Greater Kalamazoo in Michigan.  She is also very active at the state level and is currently serving as the Vice President of Membership and Marketing, and the Marketing Committee chair.  At the national level she is on the Editorial + Marketing Board and S.A.G.E.S. Task Force.  To learn even more about NALS she has a secondary membership with NALS of Phoenix and NALS of Philadelphia.   Outside of NALS she is a full-time legal assistant to attorney Garold A. Goidosik with Goidosik Morse Disability Law Group and has two other part-time jobs. One of those part-time jobs is her own crafting company where she sells her hand-crocheted items. Besides work and NALS, she is married with two children of her own, a stepdaughter, and a very spoiled golden retriever who is a retired show dog.


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Jacquelyn Hannigan (Firth) PP PLS says...
Posted Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Great article.
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