October 12, 2011
For freshly minted young lawyers, late nights at the office are just part of the job description, one in which most junior associates see very little upside. But according to attorney and author Grover E. Cleveland, young lawyers should actually be reassured by assignments that require all-nighters.
“If a senior lawyer left work on your desk and went to sleep, that means that you’ve successfully earned her trust,” he said.
Cleveland offered this and other nuggets of wisdom at an October 4 event jointly sponsored by the Harvard Law School Program on the Legal Profession and Office of Career Services. Cleveland, who is not related to the former United States president of the same name, is the author of “Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: The Essential Guide to Thriving as a New Lawyer” in which he draws on his experience as a partner at a large law firm to provide practice tips to help young lawyers thrive.
“I wrote the book because I didn’t like to see associates struggle,” he said. “I started taking notes for the book about as soon as I started my practice of law. I also talked to dozens of lawyers throughout the country.”
Cleveland advised young lawyers, whether they work for a large corporate law firm or in government or public interest, to think of themselves as self-employed.
“This will remind you to do your work in a way that will earn you more work,” he explained. “It will also remind you that you have to be proactive throughout your career. If there’s something going wrong in your practice, you need to be the one to fix it.”
He provided pointers on how to earn work, and emphasized the importance of turning in work completely free of errors. To (quite literally) illustrate his point, he showed a photo of a woman with a misspelled tattoo.
“It might be equally as time intensive to correct your work as it was for this woman to fix her tattoo, but you have to make the effort,” he said.
Cleveland also discussed time management, client relations, Facebook, and thanking senior lawyers for assignments, which might seem counterintuitive to an overworked junior associate.
“Thanking lawyers for work will show them that you’ll be courteous to their clients, and it will give them an opportunity to provide you with feedback,” he said.
The Program on the Legal Profession (PLP) seeks to make a substantial contribution to the modern practice of law by increasing understanding of the structures, norms and dynamics of the global legal profession. To this end, the PLP conducts, sponsors and publishes empirical research on the profession; innovates and implements new methods and content for teaching law students, practicing lawyers and related professionals about the profession; and fosters broader and deeper connections bridging the global universe of legal practitioners and the academy.