10 Common Mistakes Made by New Lawyers (and How to Avoid Them)
Even with sufficient education and a bit of experience, new lawyers are prone to mistakes. It’s a near-inevitability in this career field. Fortunately, most mistakes aren’t career-ending, but it’s still important to be proactive and prevent the mistakes you can.
In this guide, we’ll cover some of the most common and most destructive mistakes a new lawyer can make – and spell out exactly how you can prevent them.
The Most Common Mistakes Made by New Lawyers
These are some of the most common mistakes made by new lawyers:
- Scheduling errors. You don’t have to be a new lawyer to suffer the consequences of a scheduling error; it can happen to anyone, regardless of career field or experience. But new lawyers do suffer disproportionately, since they have less experience managing a hectic schedule and are juggling many priorities at once. Double booking client meetings could leave both your clients feeling neglected – and weaken their trust in your competence. Make sure you use a reliable scheduling tool and always double-check your schedule before booking anything.
- Following the client’s direction. Your clients are an important and active part of managing any case. You’ll need to listen to their stories, their perspectives, and their ideas. However, that doesn’t mean you should do whatever they say or take their suggestions too seriously; you’re still the expert here. Many new lawyers kowtow to their clients excessively, ultimately leading to poor results.
- Skimping on discovery and research. No lawyer skips the discovery and research phase entirely; this is critical for any case. However, new lawyers sometimes get to a point where they start feeling confident about the case and stop prematurely. If you want to give your clients the best chances of success, you have to keep going – and uncover every piece of evidence you can.
- Overestimating knowledge of the law. You went to school for a long time and studied hard to be a lawyer. But that doesn’t mean you know everything about the law. If you overestimate your knowledge and familiarity, you’ll set yourself up for even bigger mistakes in the future.
- Dabbling. Stick to your area of expertise. Or, if you’re venturing into unknown territory, get some assistance from someone more experienced than you. Dabbling in unfamiliar areas of the law can lead to critical errors that compromise your clients’ chances of success – and will eventually mar your reputation.
- Failing to support clients. Your clients need support, and in many different ways. It’s not enough to provide static advice and represent your clients in court; you need to listen to them, provide emotional support, and help connect them to the resources they need (which could include pre-settlement funding).
- Communicating poorly. Communication is key for the success of any lawyer. You’ll be in near-constant communication with your clients, your coworkers, your bosses, and other professionals. If you’re unpolished, rude, or inarticulate, you’re going to face severe consequences – and possibly ruin your most important professional relationships.
- Relying too much on others. As the new lawyer in the firm, you’ll likely be deferring to more experienced people on a regular basis. You may also be able to offload some tasks on secretaries and paralegals – but be cautious not to rely too much on others. You still have to take charge of your work.
- Doubling down on a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes, but often, new lawyers are unwilling or unable to admit it. If you’re afraid of looking weak or if you want to prove yourself, you might double down on a mistake instead of admitting your error; you might also refuse to listen to criticism from your more experienced contemporaries. No matter what you might think, these actions don’t make you look confident or assertive; they make you look arrogant and hopeless. Have the humility to acknowledge your susceptibility to error and don’t be afraid to admit when you’re wrong.
- Never asking for help. Along similar lines, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Too many inexperienced lawyers wait until they’re in over their head before seeking assistance; don’t do this. Instead, freely reach out to your peers and superiors when you have a question or when you need a bit of help. They’ll likely be more than happy to lend a helping hand.
Here’s some additional advice that can help you avoid the pitfalls of being a new lawyer in the field:
- Work with a mentor. Finding a mentor is one of the best career moves you can make early on. An experienced lawyer with many years of experience will be able to provide you with guidance, advice, and connections to important resources. Through them, you’ll be able to expand your network, set better career goals for yourself, and get neutral, third-party advice on your initial cases. They can also offer suggestions and point out things you’ve never noticed or thought about due to your inexperience.
- Get feedback from peers and clients. Go out of your way to ask for feedback from both your peers and your clients. They may be able to see things about your practice and the way you carry yourself that you cannot. Not all the feedback you gather will be valuable, but there will certainly be some important nuggets that help you shape your future.
- Conduct self-assessments. Finally, make sure you spend time self-assessing. Write down what you’ve done, think about what went wrong and what went right, and make an action plan for what you’re going to do differently next time.
If you want to provide your clients with the best possible support and service, you’ll have to extend beyond your core legal skillset. That’s why many lawyers help clients by recommending pre-settlement funding.
Pre-settlement funding provides plaintiffs with an immediate lump sum of capital. If and when the settlement arrives, they can pay back this advance with a small fee – and if they don’t win a settlement, they’ll owe nothing. It’s a great way to relieve financial stress and give your client more confidence in the case. And it’s ridiculously easy to get started. Contact us today for more information!