Facebook memories have a way of building you up, tearing you down, or just plain kicking your ass. Or sometimes, they just…really, really age you. Facebook reminded me the other day that it’s been 3 years, THREE YEARS, since I was sworn into the Missouri bar. While it was one of my life highlights, and one of my best days, it still absolutely blows my mind that I’ve been a lawyer for three years. More importantly, I have been fixing real peoples’ real life problems, for THREE YEARS. I’m still not convinced that I have the knowledge, the wherewithal, the experience, or the talent to help anyone, let alone a bunch of strangers… but here I am: 3 years out.
If I could go back to little fresh-faced, angel baby, newly minted-attorney Ashley, this is what I would tell myself:
1. Confidence will take you far, even fake confidence. You don’t have to be positive that you are right, you just have to say your decision or conclusion confidently. Really sell it. Afterwards, run to the internet and pray to the Lord that your confidence paid off.
2. Speaking of internet, the internet is your friend. It is insane how much law you DON’T know. You’ll seriously question if you learned anything in law school.. frequently, but you’ll come to realize, you learned how to find information. Lawyers find information, digest information, and throw it up in a comprehensible blob of helpfulness. At least, hopefully.
3. Traffic laws should have been taught in law school. WHY ARE THEY NOT TAUGHT IN LAW SCHOOL?! 98% of the questions that will come your way will be about how to get out of a speeding ticket or lessen a DUI charge.. and you’ll be none the wiser. Again, the internet IS your friend.
4. Speaking of friends, they’ll come out of the woodworks. Truly. It’s amazing who suddenly wants to be friends when they think free legal advice may be an added perk.. especially when they are in a wee bit of trouble. It never hurts to be a friend, even with someone who has just so conveniently decided they liked you for the first time in their life. Good karma is a real thing – be a helper.
5. Speaking of friends again, don’t burn bridges – especially professional bridges. As many lawyers as there are out there, the lawyer-world really is so small. Everyone knows someone, and at least half of the someones out there, are important… and potentially hiring. Be on your best behavior. Always.
6. The customer is not always right; however, it is in the best interest of ALL parties if you pretend like they are. Pretend the customer is right and can do no wrong, then clean up the mess later. Preferably when no one, including the customer, is still involved.
7. No one should be able to contact you and receive an immediate response. Ever. The sense of immediacy that our world is subject to is concerning, and honestly, a little heartbreaking. A voicemail never hurt anyone… especially when you aren’t ENTIRELY sure what someone is calling for to begin with. Listen to the voicemail, collect your thoughts, and then call back. Whatever you do… do not answer and start rambling.
8. You’re a lawyer, get the contract in writing, you know better. Trusting that humanity is going to do what they say they are going to is just naive, and I promise you, it’ll end up kicking your ass. Just ask me, I’m 6 months out of a “house project” that hasn’t been completed and I still have NO doorknobs. I knew better. I know better, but here we are 🤷🏻♀️. If law school teaches you anything, it is to trust no one, especially mankind.
9. Law and Order really isn’t that bad of a resource. At least to a contract attorney that practices literally no litigation whatsoever, it seems pretty spot on. I know more about objections and hearsay evidence than I ever did in evidence class.
10. The best way to handle a client that is not being “all that patient” is to continually thank them for their continued patience. No one knows how to respond when they are getting thanked for something they KNOW they are not worthy of being thanked for. It works. I promise. People inherently don’t want to be dicks.. at least, I don’t think so.
11. People aren’t kind. I refuse to believe that the world, as a whole, is generally unkind, but there are several people out there that are not kind. It has less to do with you than you think, don’t flatter yourself. Suck it up, staple on the fake smile, and be kind anyways. It never hurts to be the bigger person.
12. You’ll be wrong. A lot. In fact, if you follow my advice, you’ll be CONFIDENTLY wrong. Be equally as confidently humble and as confidently ready to learn more. Confidently admit you’re wrong or you missed the mark, and move on. You win some, you lose some. It’s a way of life.
13. There will always be work. Always. There will not always be perfect rottie mix rescues, or your parents, or your fiancé and vacations. Separate them. Two separate worlds for two completely different times of day. Honor both/all roles you play, and play each one of them, 100%. Work hard, but leave work at work.
14. Common sense will take you as far, if not further, than confidence. Use your brain. It’s an underutilized tool in today’s day and age, but it’ll rarely steer you wrong. Use it as a basis for all your communications and all your argumentation. The entire world would benefit from more usage of common sense, so don’t be afraid to lead by example.
15. Breathe. The situation is never as bad as it seems, the solution is never as far off as it seems, and you’re more capable than you believe. After all, you’re the professional here.
I don’t have it all together. In fact, I’d be willing to bet I have it together less than 20% of the time. But I’m a scattered, confident mess, that always wants to get better. I can admit I am wrong, and I want to know how to be and do better. Being an attorney is hard work, but it’s important work, and inspiring work, and humbling work. I am proud of myself – there has been a lot of growth in the last three years.
So, if you’ve ever considered it (it=being a lawyer), I guess I recommend it. If nothing else… it’s a good mental exercise. You’ll learn a lot about yourself.. and who doesn’t want to know more about themselves? Am I right, friends?
There are sunny daze ahead, my friends (probably). I’ll see you there. 🌞