After writing a few pieces advising young lawyers how to start off on the right foot in their new jobs, it occurred to me that it might be helpful to look at the question from the other angle: If you’re supervising a young lawyer (or a law student in a summer job), what can you do to help ensure a smooth transition?
Here’s some advice for the care and feeding of young lawyers (and lawyers-to-be)….
If you’re in charge of a law student intern, summer associate, judicial extern, or new hire, you’re probably pretty busy and stressed out yourself. It’s easy to view this fresh-faced “kid” in your office as just one more annoying thing you have to deal with before you can get down to your real task: billing hours. (Or, if you happen to have a more enlightened job, doing your actual important work.)
But pause for a moment and consider that — if you play your cards right — you might be able to farm out some of your work (or add to the billable hours pyramid that keeps the whole law firm edifice afloat), thus making your life easier! Win.
Some things to keep in mind:
This person desperately wants to please you. How many people in your life really care about making you happy? Probably not many. Your new hire does! Most law students and recent grads are natural people pleasers. They’ll work morning, noon, and night (and even all weekend if you ask), to make sure you’re happy with their work. What does this mean for you? Try to remember to throw a bone every now and again, and say, “Good job.” It won’t kill you, and it will ensure your new hire continues being the eager-to-please young thing you hired to begin with.
If something goes wrong, it’s probably your fault. Harsh, but true. Odds are you never got any management training before being assigned to supervise this person, so it’s easy to think that you did a good job explaining what you wanted, and they just failed to listen. (Or they’re an idiot, or whatever story you tell yourself when the proverbial s**t hits the fan.) But the reality is that — as the supervising attorney — it’s your responsibility to make sure things are going smoothly. If you forget to mention some key aspect of the task, or assume your new hire “must know” something critical, it’s your fault. Don’t assume, communicate.