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DRI Members Offer Advice for New Lawyers

Updated February 13, 2024

Whether you're just beginning your journey in the field or looking for a fresh perspective on your legal career, our DRI members have a treasure trove of advice to help you navigate the path to success.

Embarking on a career in law can be both exhilarating and daunting, especially for those fresh out of law school. The transition from the classroom to the courtroom can be difficult to navigate. Luckily, most seasoned attorneys are willing and eager to provide mentorship and advice.

We asked DRI members for their best piece of advice for new lawyers, and many of the things they said can be applied to other career paths or aspects of life, as well. Read on to learn what our members have to say.

"Treat failure as your best teacher. Try your best now not to let fear be your motivation."

Trey Bourn, partner at Butler Snow

"Your reputation is important and hard work pays off."

Kennard B. Davis, associate at Beveridge & Diamond PC

"Always walk away with a lesson. Whether it's walking away from a deposition with a lesson from co-counsel on impeachment techniques, walking away from a hearing with a lesson from opposing counsel on how not to behave in front of a judge, or walking away from a job with a lesson that the practice area did not suit you, every situation should be viewed an opportunity for learning and growth."

Christine E. Westberg Dorn, of Mooney Lenaghan Westberg Dorn LLC

"The best advice I have for new lawyers is communication. Communication is key within the firm, whether it be with your assistant or superior, as well as outside your firm, especially with opposing counsel and clients. We have become very reliant on email communication which has somewhat handicapped our ability to create and maintain a human connection with people. The human connection is critical in our ability to defend our clients."

Stacy Lynne Douglas, partner at Everett Dorey LLP

"Forge lasting and meaningful relationships with clients."

Lawrence Bradfield Hughes, of Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP

"Read the original authorities and cases; do not accept summaries or analysis from secondary authorities. Stand on your own research, rather than that of others."

Roger W. Hughes, of counsel at Adams and Graham

"Understand from day one at your firms that no one will look out for your own professional development better than you will. Despite what any firm markets as its ability to develop young legal talent, no firm will do that better than you. And you should take control of your professional development from the start of your legal career. There are tons of opportunities for professional development outside of your law firms. Organizations that provide young attorneys with opportunities to lead and develop, like DRI, should be an important part of your development plans. Consider paying for membership, seminars, etc. even when your firms won't support you. Consider it an investment in yourselves."

Toyja E. Kelley Sr., partner at Locke Lord LLP

"Get comfortable with networking early."

Catherine Ava Leatherwood, partner at Rogers Townsend LLC

"Listen more, talk less. Ask questions. Find a mentor."

Dan L. Lindstrom, shareholder at Jacobsen Orr Lindstrom & Holbrook

"Figure out how to develop and maintain a book of business in your practice area. The firm you're with may or may not be the right fit, but as long as you can take your book with you, you'll be fine."

Stewart G. Milch, senior attorney at Cooper & Scully, P.C.

"Stay engaged. Make the file your own. Ask for more responsibility."

Brandon Pellegrino, partner at Bowman and Brooke LLP

"Learn how to bill, account for your time and market yourself by writing and speaking even if you have to work non-billable hours."

Mark Perkins, owner of Perkins & Associates

DRI has many resources for those who are new to practicing law or new to specific practice areas. Our Young Lawyers Committee provides its members with the best professional development, high-quality CLE programs, and networking opportunities of any legal organization.

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