Father Knows Best: Advice for the Young Lawyer

by Elizabeth Barajas

With Father’s Day right around the corner, I can’t help but be reminded of the countless “lessons” my father has taught me over the years.  Although many of his teaching moments fell on deaf ears, there are a few words of advice that now scream in my mind.  As a young attorney, I have a new appreciation for his wise advice, both in my personal and professional life.  I hope you find value in it as well.

Don’t procrastinate.  It likely started in grade school, where we underestimated how long it would take to build a dinosaur diorama the night before it was due.  It involved lots of paper mache, crying in panic, and a father, displeased that I had waited to the last minute yet again.  That said, preparation is essential to becoming a good attorney, and it doesn’t happen overnight.  For those of you buried in Barbri materials, I hope you take note.  Use your time away from studying to prepare for what happens after the Bar Exam.  Between several excruciating weeks of waiting for your scores, use your evenings, weekends, and study breaks to begin your job search.  Reach out to old professors, former supervisors, and family to let them know how you’re doing, and what you have planned for the next several months.  Reconnect with your local alumni organization, and attend events.  Everyone understands the difficult process of preparing for the Bar Exam, but that’s the easy thing to do.  Don’t wait until the night before to prepare for entering the legal market.

Think purposefully.  I can still hear it today.  Dad, what do you want for your birthday?  Dad, what do you want for Christmas this year?  The answer was never a new razor or a bottle of cologne.  We can all guess what our potential employer needs to hear, and we all know how to say it.  But that’s what they get for Christmas every year.  Know your audience, know your interviewer and tell them something that only someone who understands a lot about them would know.  With a little effort, you can really “wow” someone with something they have always wanted.

Persist.  I have had a long and miserable relationship with tryouts.  The sport never really mattered – soccer, basketball, lacrosse—because when it came down to it, I inevitably got cut.  Thankfully, I had a father that never accepted a quitting attitude.  I became the girl that perpetually tried out, and only stopped attending tryouts until I made a team.  So be persistent.  Entering the legal market is more difficult now than ever, so it is vital that you have the right perspective during your job search.  Believe in yourself, keep trying out – you will make a team.  Remain confident in your abilities and give it your all.  No employer or client is going to be impressed with a lack of drive.  Set your goals high, and do everything you can to reach them.

Help Out.  Weekends around my house involved mowing, raking leaves, mulching… all thanks to Dad’s 7 am wakeup call.  The fact is, although it seems like labor, I began looking forward to helping out, seeing the finished product, and knowing I was a part of it.  Although we’re adults now, it’s still important to remain active and involved.  Identifying your personal interests again after three years of law school may seem like a chore, but you still have interests and passions.  The fun should be acting on them.  Get out there and start helping.  Serve as a child advocate, a translator for a local non-profit, or whatever puts a smile on your face.  It will reconnect you with your community and will make you a happier individual.

E BarajasElizabeth Barajas graduated from the Ohio State University in Biology and Business, and attended the University of Dayton School of Law.  While in school, she was a member of the UDSL National Trial Team and President of the Criminal Law Association.  She has an interest in intellectual property law, and is currently preparing to take the U.S. Patent Bar Exam.  She can be reached by email.

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