This time of year, a new crop of future lawyers is graduating from law school. They will be taking the July Bar exam with hopes of becoming licensed in October.
With some humility, after practicing law for the past twenty-two years, I offer some advice.
The Justice system is about conflict resolution, not absolute fairness. Every jurisdiction handles cases differently. You cannot expect to get the same outcomes in different courts.
The case matters. A great attorney cannot win a case with bad facts. However, an unskilled lawyer can lose a case with good facts. Learn your craft and learn to evaluate the quality of your case.
Do not be afraid to turn down a case. The greatest day in a young attorney's life is when he or she has reached a level of success that they can turn down a client. Remember, 5% of an attorney's clients will use 95% of the attorney's time. My advice is to earn 5% less and get back 95% of your time.
You cannot work for free. It is okay to take on an occasional pro bono case, but remember you must get paid to take on other more meaningful cases.
Not all publicity is good. The news media will use either the best things you say or the worst. The problem is it is their choice as to what quotes they use. When speaking to the press, be extremely careful and remember they are not your friends.
Remember the judge puts on his or her pants the same way you do. My point is that, as long as you are respectful to a judge, there is nothing that should intimidate you. When people rise for a judge, it is not for that individual. We rise for the institution of the court and its unique place in maintaining civil society.
Remember to respect opposing counsel. They may believe in their case as much (or more) than you do. Never assume bad intentions unless proven to you beyond a reasonable doubt.
Remember that jurors are performing their civic duty. They need to be treated as such. No one wants to be on jury duty, and conflicts cannot be resolved without them.
Respect the clerks and other court personnel. No one can cause you more aggravation or help you more than the court staff. They are there every day and will readily speak about you when you are not there. Thread carefully.
Treat your staff with respect and dignity. Loyalty does not come from a paycheck. It comes from how well you treat your co-workers.
Always remember that the practice of law is a privilege you have earned. Your bar card is not a license to be a bull in a china shop. Welcome new Georgia Lawyers to the adventure of a lifetime.