Advice For A Young Lawyer


As a law clerk you live at the bottom of a very big heap. You report to everyone in the heap and everyone in that heap is your boss. Sometimes you wait for work that never comes and other days you want to hide from everyone who keeps throwing work at you. During my first six months as a clerk I became increasingly grateful for one particular solicitor in my team, we shall call her Carrie.

Carrie took it upon herself, consciously or unconsciously, to ensure I always had work to do. She worked hard to ensure the tasks were as interesting as possible and not disconnected. She built upon each task she gave until we had created something that resembled the start of a skill set. She always gave me meaningful feedback and asked for my opinion (which challenged me to be brave enough to have one in the workplace).  She accomplished all of this while being incredibly personable and inflicting fashion envy upon everyone in the office.

Under her mentorship I slowly saw myself improve, take fifty steps backwards, and then a couple forward again. Alas, our time together was to be cut short because she had plans to leave for an overseas adventure six months after I started. So I observed her (in the most non-creepy way possible) while I could in the hope that one day I could be as competent as her.

On her final day at work, she gave me one last piece of advice which I will never forget.

A fellow clerk and I discussed its value afterwards. So I decided to share it with all of you. No matter what line of work you are in or stage of life, I feel this this cannot be applied enough.

She said there are two things you need to know:

1. Always come to work your best self. Come prepared to work hard, to learn and to contribute.

It was obvious she did this. Not only was she incredibly good at her job but people wanted to work with her.

2. Always stand up for yourself.

You need to identify your limit and how much you want to give to the job. Otherwise, you will be unnecessarily worked into the ground and taken advantage of.

3. And if you need to pick between rules one and two, pick standing up for yourself.

Simply because if you do not stand up for yourself, no one else will.

A week before she left I did some research for her that she forwarded straight on to the person in charge. She cc’d me into the email and said “Great work Madi.” She came to my desk the next day and reiterated how well I had done. We BOTH looked ecstatic. I was happy to have done something right for the first time in what felt like an eternity, and I like to think she was proud of how her efforts had turned out.

No matter where my career takes me I will always remember Carrie. Particularly for her kindness, positive attitude and the fact that she was never too important to mentor a young lawyer.

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