How to Build a Successful Law Career

How to Build a Successful Law Career


What is important in the discovery phase of litigation for a successful attorney?

Let’s talk about the litigation process. Whether in state or federal court, the overarching theme of the rules of procedure is to encourage opposing attorneys to resolve conflicts without court intervention. As a young attorney, you may be inclined to avoid court intervention by agreeing to any request made by opposing counsel – whether it is an extension to discovery or to postpone a hearing. While this is the right move, make sure to be ready to ask for something reasonable in return. It’s like the old adage of trading baseball cards.  Don’t let go of yours until you have your fingers on the card you want to get. And so when opposing counsel asks you, “Would you please get me this discovery?” Be prepared to step forward and say, “Sure. I would like to do that for you, but while I’m doing that, I need you to get me these documents from your client. Will you do that for me?”

How do you juggle your caseload as an attorney?

When I moved to Miami to practice law with a large law firm, I was given over 100 cases to work on.  I had no guidance, instructions or mentorship on what to do in any of them.  I guessed I was supposed to just “know” what to do.  I didn’t, and I struggled. You could say I learned how to practice law at “the school of hard knocks.” I wished I had not tried to act so smart then — “I can figure this out on my own” attitude. I should have instead invested my time in creating relationships with other older, more experienced attorneys that I could go to for advice.

If you are a young attorney undergoing this type of challenge, my advice is to find one or two attorneys who you strongly respect, either at your law firm or elsewhere, that can act as a sounding board when you need guidance. Do remember that relationships go both ways, so try to add value to the relationship as much as you can!

How do you find a job as a lawyer?

Even the one job interview I received in Miami, did not come from a cold resume drop. I was studying for the Florida bar at the University of Tampa library, and I got to know an associate, Steven, who worked at a large law firm In Miami. In studying together, we got to be close friends. He arranged for my one and only job interview. We are still close friends to this day. You never know when paths will cross, that will lead to a better or more successful turn for you in your legal career. Just remember to make as many friends as you can, and give back to those relationships more than you receive. “It is in the giving, that you will receive.”

The attorney that thinks about the client first

When you are a young lawyer, be on the look-out for on the spot requests by older more experienced attorneys. You will be asked for something that sounds reasonable, and your impulse is to quickly agree to it. Whether it is before a hearing or at a deposition, you should always be prepared to – pause – and be able to say instead, “Let me think about it, and I’ll get back to you.” Or say, “Let me check with my supervising attorney and I’ll get back to you.” Do not ever agree to do anything on the spot. This will save you from prematurely giving your word or binding your client to something that may not be in their best interests. More importantly, this will save you from getting in trouble with your supervising attorney and show them that they can rely on you to know what you — don’t — know.

Note from a successful Fort Lauderdale attorney – enjoy the steps of your career path

After law school, I clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals. I had a shot to clerk on the U.S. Supreme Court, but I turned it down to go off into the business world on my own — I was entrepreneurial by nature, you could say. After years of trading options “in the pit” on the Chicago Board of Trade, developing commercial real estate projects and becoming a large franchisee owner, I decided to go back to practicing law — and I chose Florida over California. I went and sat for the Florida bar, and thought I had it “made” on landing a job. I was so confident. I was so wrong. I tried to get a job from Tampa to Miami, sending my resume to over 25 law firms. I could hardly get an interview (I think it was the non-traditional path I took; I did not go straight from clerking to BigLaw as expected of me, and that caused so many law firms to flare away from me). I got a job offer from only one in Miami. Sometimes, the life plan that you have intricately mapped out in your mind takes unexpected detours. These detours and challenges are vital for self-growth and will make accomplishing your goals even more awesome. Accept these detours and enjoy the journey – it will be over before you can blink!