What advice would you give to a new attorney?
California Lawyer

What advice would you give to a new attorney?

February 2013

I've been in the business about 20 years, and I started at a time when I still dictated things and there was no email - we were just transferring over into computers. What I would tell an attorney who is starting out now is not to undervalue the need to have face-to-face contact with both clients and counsel. Email has its purpose but it also has its limitations. Clients actually do like getting a phone call, and they appreciate the extra time it takes to meet face-to-face. Go and meet your client at their place of business to establish your relationship with them. That's where you will really learn about the person they are, and that way, they'll know you are serious about serving them as best you can.

- Attorney Adam Grant is a partner at Alpert Barr & Grant in Encino. Grant works mostly in business, real estate and construction litigation. In his free time, he trains for Iron Man triathlons. He was admitted to the State Bar of California in 1991.

I'd like to take a step back further and give advice to people before they even enter law school. I would encourage people to go to law school in the area where you think you want to practice - it can be difficult to do this, but I think it's a good idea. You start to network with people in the legal sphere in that area. Then, when you're looking for your first job, you've been there for three years already. I know that's not always possible or applicable, but for me, I'm from [Kings County] and I love this area, my family is here, I knew I wanted to live and stay here and practice here, and to the extent I was able I wanted to give back to the community here. I went to school here with that very thought in mind. I had opportunities to go other places; I absolutely do not regret staying here. I think it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

-Criminal defense lawyer William Parry is a senior associate at Kahn, Soares & Conway in Hanford, and on the board of "AmeriCymru," the nation's largest Welsh-American association. He was admitted to the State Bar of California in 1999.

In the old days we had very few tools compared to what they had today. My advice is not to get hung up on technology and forget your people skills - remember how to communicate with people. The other thing I would say is, be a person of integrity. Be a lawyer whose word means everything. Young people must recognize that becoming a lawyer doesn't mean you check your personhood at the door and become a shark. Being an attorney should never be about this grand idea of a lifestyle and a nice car, but should be about this question: How am I going to be impact people's lives? I think it's a high calling - I feel that very strongly. Take it very seriously and recognize your purpose. If you're doing it right, you're going to be a leader in your community, and you're going to be someone who makes a difference in someone else's life.

-A former radio and TV personality, litigator Tana Coates practices law at Coates & Coates in San Luis Obispo. She was admitted to the State Bar of California in 1992.

Work with support staff in your office and especially in the courtroom. They can help you tremendously in knowing the judges' etiquette and procedure. Be prepared, be on time, return phone calls, and don't overstate your case - it will ultimately come back to haunt you. For sole practitioners, keep your overhead as low as possible, and don't overburden yourself with new cases. Make time to get involved in your local bar associations and state bar. They contribute to the betterment of our profession. Most importantly, remember ethics, for it is easy to turn a blind eye. First and foremost, you are an officer of the court - always carry yourself accordingly.

- Civil and criminal litigator Tony Capozzi lives and works in Fresno, and serves as a legal consultant for his local ABC affiliate. He was admitted to the State Bar of California in 1976.

I would tell them to learn how to listen. My biggest criticism is that most attorneys do not listen - they don't listen to opposing counsel, to witnesses, to clients. They're looking at their next question and not listening to what the witness is saying. As a result, they're missing everything. And this applies to your employees, your support staff, and your co-counsel, too. Attorneys sure know how to talk, but they don't always know how to listen.

- Litigator Virginia Blumenthal was born, bred and practices law in Riverside at Blumenthal Law Offices. She has served as President and is now on the executive board of the Riverside County Philharmonic. She was admitted to the State Bar of California in 1975.

If you or a California lawyer you know would like to participate in our Q&A series, email karmah_elmusa@dailyjournal.com.

Reader Comments

Angela Kopolovich - February 20, 2013
As an attorney recruiter in California, I would advise new lawyers to come up with a long term career plan early on. Research everything you can about your intended practice area, and then stick with it. Look beyond the day-to-day of a particular practice, incorporating the larger economic picture, so that you can try to forecast what will happened in that area of law in 5, 10, 15 years. Trying to transition to a new practice or industry mid-career, can be very difficult. Also, start thinking about what you will need to do in the long term to be successful (business development, for instance), and begin planting those seeds as early as possible.
Richard Umbenhauer - March 7, 2013
Find another profession while you still have a chance.
Zukile Justice Mqhwishi - May 11, 2013
The one thing that will never fail any upcoming lawyer is to equip themselves, qualify and study more and more .

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