One of the perks of being in a mid-sized firm is the experience. One of the drawbacks is the same...the experience.
For being out of law school less than 2 years, I've gained tons and tons of experience compared to many others that graduated at the same time as me. My caseload is my own, I don't receive bits and pieces of assignments from the partners...I manage my own work. If you're in law school, you may be thinking that is terrifying, and at times, it is. If you're in law school and don't think that is terrifying...you're probably too cocky :)
So, I'm often thrown out of the nest and taught to fly by my own instinct (and research...and studying...and observing...and asking questions). There is no hand holding, especially since I hit my 1 year mark as an associate here back in September.
I've said before and I'll say it again, I never wanted to be in a courtroom. I went to law school with the intent of working preventing the courtroom fiasco. That is, drafting clear contracts that prepare for the "what ifs" that inevitably come out to be the "yep...this just happeneds." I wanted to educate business owners, set up corporations, and be the go-to for handling sticky situations to prevent the filing of a case in court. I'm still that person in general practice, but that is only about 10% of what I do here.
My primary areas of practice at this juncture is family law, probate, and estate planning (wills and trusts).
I gained invaluable experience this week. It was my first full-blown, all-day trial. Don't get me wrong, I'm in court lots for various hearings (if you're not in the legal field you may not know that there are often lots of court appearances before a trial) but trials are different. Trials are long, intimidating, and final. Well as final as a divorce trial can be...when inevitably a modification is already on a client's mind.
As I've said before, so much of being in the courtroom is about the preparation. But there is only so much you can prepare for when you don't know who will be a witness for the opposing side. One of the best pieces of advice a mentor gave me this week was "Just remember, you're not getting the divorce." And it's true. My job is to be prepared, ask the right questions, and do the best I can do for my client. I should also mention I've gone through plenty of other divorce cases, but plenty of them are completed through a mediation and/or settlement agreement. Trial is sticky, taking the decisions out of the hands of the parties who have stake in the game...and giving it to a third party to make all decisions. From my tone, you won't be surprised to hear I'm an advocate of working things through between the parties.
Not much time to celebrate my victory of knocking my first trial out of the way, on to preparing for my next.