Go to a courthouse that you practice in on a regular basis, or hope to practice in on a regular basis, and take a seat. (Hint: you may want to look online or call ahead of time to see what the day’s docket looks like.) You will see great lawyers and not so great lawyers. Take notes. Talk to the attorneys afterwards and, if appropriate, ask questions. At first you may feel uncomfortable just sitting in the courtroom when you don’t have a case, but that’s normal. Every attorney who is successful has observed attorneys in the past and likely still does, when possible.
As a lawyer, it is essential to continually improve your skills and knowledge in order to provide your clients with the best possible representation. One way to do this is by observing other attorneys in action. By watching how other lawyers approach cases and interact with clients, you can gain valuable insights and learn new techniques that can help you become a better lawyer. In this article, we will explore why observing other attorneys is worth your time and how it can benefit your legal career.
Learn from experienced attorneys
Observing other attorneys can be a valuable learning experience, especially if you are just starting out in your legal career. By watching experienced lawyers, you can learn from their successes and mistakes, and gain insights into the strategies and techniques they use to win cases. You can also observe how they communicate with clients, judges, and other lawyers, and learn how to build effective relationships with these stakeholders.
Gain new perspectives
Every lawyer has their own unique approach to practicing law, and observing other attorneys can expose you to new perspectives and ways of thinking. This can broaden your horizons and help you think more creatively about how to approach legal problems. By observing lawyers from different practice areas or jurisdictions, you can also gain a better understanding of the legal landscape and how it varies across different regions.
Improve your advocacy skills
Observing other attorneys can help you improve your advocacy skills by providing you with examples of effective persuasion techniques. You can observe how other lawyers present their arguments, use evidence, and respond to counterarguments. This can help you develop your own persuasive skills and become a more effective advocate for your clients.
Stay up-to-date with legal developments
Legal practice is constantly evolving, and observing other attorneys can help you stay up-to-date with the latest legal developments. By watching how other lawyers navigate changes in the law or respond to new legal challenges, you can learn how to adapt your own practice to keep pace with the changing legal landscape. This can help you provide your clients with the most current and effective legal representation.
Build your professional network
Observing other attorneys can also be a valuable networking opportunity. By attending court hearings, depositions, or other legal proceedings, you can meet other lawyers and build relationships with them. These relationships can lead to new business opportunities or referrals in the future. Additionally, by observing how other lawyers interact with clients, judges, and other stakeholders, you can learn how to build and maintain professional relationships more effectively.
Develop your own style
Observing other attorneys can help you develop your own style and approach to practicing law. By watching how other lawyers present themselves, communicate with clients, and handle legal issues, you can develop your own unique style that reflects your personality and values. This can help you stand out from other lawyers and build a strong reputation in your legal community.
Learn how to manage your time
Observing other attorneys can also teach you valuable time management skills. By observing how other lawyers manage their time in court or in other legal proceedings, you can learn how to prioritize tasks and manage your own time more effectively. This can help you become more efficient and productive in your practice, which can benefit both you and your clients.
Finally, observing other attorneys can help you gain confidence in your own abilities. By seeing other lawyers in action, you can develop a better understanding of what it takes to be a successful lawyer, and see that even the most experienced attorneys make mistakes. This can help you build your own confidence and feel more comfortable taking on challenging cases or legal issues.
In conclusion, observing other attorneys is a valuable way to improve your legal skills and knowledge. By learning from experienced attorneys, gaining new perspectives, improving your advocacy skills, staying up-to-date with legal developments, building your professional network, developing your own
And don’t just observe the lawyers. Observe the judges; this is especially true if you want to practice regularly in that courtroom. First of all, the judges will get used to seeing your face in the courtroom and you’ll get used to seeing them in the courtroom, which will make your first few appearances in front of them a little less intimidating. Pay attention to which judges ask a lot of questions (hot bench) and which judges just listen (cold bench). If there is an opportune time, introduce yourself to the judge. Even better, if you know an attorney in the courtroom well, ask that attorney to introduce you to the judge before or after their case gets started.
Aside from observing and learning from different attorneys and judges by watching, being at the courthouse is good for you and good for your practice. You will slowly learn to mingle with the attorneys, which means more business contacts and more confidence in yourself. You may even find a mentor in the process. Many people say, and I certainly agree, you get business when you are in the courtroom. It may not be your perfect golden case, but people who are appearing in court and need an attorney often ask other attorneys in the courtroom to take their case (before accepting their case, read this article, specifically about representation letters). First and foremost, attorneys must set aside a sufficient amount of time to prepare for a witness meeting. Attorneys should carefully review the substantive issues involved, create a detailed outline of questions, and organize case documents to review with the witness. Witness preparation should not be approached casually.
Attorneys should also prepare to manage a reluctant or very busy witness. Recognizing that a witness may have many competing time commitments, the attorney must accommodate a witness while also communicating the importance of the legal proceeding. “Sometimes, government officials who are witnesses are so busy and are pulled in so many different directions,” says Greg Brooker, an assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota. “They do not necessarily view being involved in your case as real work, and they may not plan to give your case the attention it needs. It’s your job to convince them to focus on their testimony.”
Brooker also cautions that attorneys should listen to their gut feelings about whether an individual will make a good witness. “Sometimes you know right away when someone is going to be a bad witness. Maybe the person is too chatty, or conversely, maybe the person withholds details and information,” he said. “In either instance, the witness is going to require much more preparation.”
When preparing, it is wise to check the social media profile of the witness and, if feasible and appropriate to the circumstances, even to do a criminal background check. Review of a witness’ “brand” on social media may be a fertile area for cross-examination of your witness. Take the time to complete this step. No one wants to be surprised by information gleaned by an opponent.
As with most aspects of family law, it is important to be prepared, starting with the consultation. Prepare for a consultation as you would for any other client meeting. The potential client will have a lot on their mind and will often jump from subject to subject; try your best to focus the discussion. Prepare a form document in advance of the consultation with a list of all subjects you want to address to ensure you and the potential client discuss all matters that may prove important to your analysis of the case. Remember that the potential client is coming to you for advice, and you will likely be in a better position to distinguish extraneous information from relevant aspects of the case. Consider utilizing a case information statement as a roadmap for the discussion. Write down all pertinent information so that if the client does, in fact, retain your firm, you already know general information regarding the engagement such as their children’s ages, their marriage date, their address, etc. The client will appreciate that you avoid redundant communication and will be impressed that you are promptly prepared to commence their case.
I have found that many attorneys’ reasons for switching jobs are misguided. Out of every 10 attorneys I speak with, I tell four of them that their current situation is just fine—they should stay right where they are. The other six have solid grounds for making a switch. Ultimately, their reasons boil down to the three described in this article.
Here are the three main reasons you should ever switch jobs: (1) you are on the wrong side of the political climate of your office, (2) you do not have access to work, or (3) you can get into a more prestigious law firm (but this is not always a sufficient reason either). There is quite a bit of depth to each of these reasons; they are more fully explored below.
At the outset, I want to make an observation that I hate to make because it is so harsh, but it’s true. If you are ever unemployed as an attorney for any length of time, it is exceedingly difficult to get a new job. There are many reasons for this, but the main reasons are that any new law firm reviewing your resume presumes you either (1) could not play political games correctly, or (2) did not have access to work.
Once you are working on a matter, familiarize yourself with the case file. Know all the details. Run the numbers and analyze the case information statements. When you have questions about financial matters or custody, contact the forensic accountants and custody experts. Meet and speak with your client before every conference, court appearance, or mediation. If a partner at your firm asks you to address an issue on a case you have not worked on previously, review the entire file to avoid unnecessary and time-consuming questions to the partner and the client.
Understand your client’s stated position regarding financial matters and custody/parenting time issues, and the basis for their requests. Often, your client may base their requests on anecdotes from friends and family without an understanding of the law or recognizing that all cases resolve differently. Manage their expectations.
The most talked-about (and most prestigious) clerkship is that for a federal judge. All levels of federal judges have law clerks: District Court judges (and sometimes even magistrates), Circuit Court judges, and Supreme Court justices. The application process for federal clerkships is handled through a website called “OSCAR”. It is an extremely competitive process and it can be very difficult to even land an interview with a federal judge. The process is extremely formal, with specific start and end dates for the application process that are uniform for all judges. Judges often hire law clerks one to two years in advance of the date on which the clerk will actually start working for the judge.
State court judges and justices also hire law clerks. State supreme court justices and appellate court judges often have at least one law clerk. Some state appellate courts may even have staff attorneys whose job is to assist all of the judges, not just one particular judge. State trial court judges sometimes also have law clerks.
Whether state court justices and judges have law clerks and the process of obtaining such clerkships will vary greatly from state to state. Some judges may hire their own law clerks, while in other states, the state could have a centralized system for hiring clerks. The process of obtaining a state court clerkship is less formal (and often slightly less competitive) than the process for obtaining a federal clerkship.