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Practical Advice for 2022's Candidate Attorneys

You are about to start your career as a candidate attorney and you are feeling the thrill and excitement of a new adventure. You are about to live out your dream of becoming an attorney. All those hard years of studying and late night cramming is about to pay off. You are carefully selecting your new wardrobe for your new career and want to ensure that you will dress to impress. The next two years are important- why? You are about to show the world what kind of attorney you will be when you are finally admitted and permitted to practice as a fully qualified attorney.

The job market seems to be flooded with attorneys. Now is the time you need to make your mark and go the extra mile. Yes, it can be a daunting experience, but if you give it your best shot, you can easily soar through your articles and make the most of the beginning of your career. The following are tips which I believe could help you before you walk into the office for the first time:

  1. First off, be on time. If it means you have to wake up way earlier than you usually do, do it. Someone once told me "Being late basically tells someone else- I don't respect your time". If you are for some reason going to be late (and don't make it a habit), always phone or message the office to tell them you are running late.

  2. Dress smartly and neatly. You want to show your employer and client that you care about your appearance. Also remember that you will be meeting a lot of people for the first time, whether it be judges, judges' registrars, clients, colleagues or other members in the field. First impressions can last a lifetime.

  3. Go the extra mile. This might sound cliché, but I can assure you, it is not. You may be wondering what it means to go the extra mile? Start off by asking yourself- what is expected of me...and then go and do more! If you are expected to be at work from 8.30am until 4.30pm, arrive earlier and leave later (when possible). If you are asked to consider some papers, consider the papers and start drawing the opinion already. Don't wait to be asked to perform certain tasks, just do it! Start each day by offering to do additional tasks. If you hear of new work that has just been received, show your enthusiasm by offering to do it.

  4. Don't be discouraged when you are corrected. You are a newbie- you are not your experienced principal who often has decades of experience behind him/her. You will be corrected. Always welcome the opportunity to improve your work and be grateful that someone is willing to point out weak points or errors. My experience with errors is that once you make them and are alerted to them, you will be cautious to do it again in future.

  5. Never stop learning. The law never stops changing. Follow court cases to make sure you are always up to speed with developments of the common law, and subscribe to weekly legal updates. Even better- write the weekly legal updates. Make it your mission to keep up to date with changes that could impact your clients (can you imagine advising your client on the law, only to find that you have given outdated advice?).

  6. ALWAYS be polite. Be courteous to everyone, whether it be strangers in the road, the teller at the grocer, the opposition in a legal matter or a colleague that seems to really rub you up the wrong way. Yes, even to that person that just pushed in front of you whilst you are waiting in a long queue at Room 1 at High Court. It is always possible that you may end up working with that person one day (or for!) or that person may end up as a client of your firm. You do not want your colleagues or clients to have a poor opinion of you. I strongly believe that being polite is essential for professionalism- so make sure you guard your temper at all times.

  7. Be wary of what you post on social media. We live in an era where everything about our lives is splashed all over social media. Chances are that even if you think something is private, it may end up being seen by clients or colleagues. Be professional at all times in what you post.

  8. Some basic etiquette for the office: Do not be tempted to involve yourself in office gossip. It only breaks down trust. If you show others that you are not interested in office gossip, you will only obtain their respect. If you show others that you are capable of gossip (which in any event, only breaks down office relationships) you will show that your integrity is compromised. Avoid complaining about your work- chances are someone who you don't want to hear will hear you. Always greet colleagues and keep a smile on that dial!

  9. Spell check- it takes less than a minute. Nothing says "poor effort" more than a document that has not been spell checked.

  10. Ethics is everything. Don't compromise on ethics- we have a Law Society and the Attorneys Act to guide you should you ever be in doubt. If you even have the slightest concern that something might not be ethical, check with your superior. Attorneys (and candidates) have an important duty to uphold ethics and failure to do so can taint your career before it has even begun.

  11. Make the most of it. Don't kill yourself working into the early hours of the morning. Always strive to be happy. An energetic and happy employee always works better than a fatigued and unhappy employee. Know your limits and don't strain yourself. Try to strike a balance where you can give your work your best efforts whilst still maintaining a healthy lifestyle. These memories of being a candidate attorney will always stay with you and you often form relationships (whether it be personal or professional) that can last for the rest of your career.

  12. Lastly, join Spence Learning's board exam prep classes hosted every year before board exams. We offer preparation classes for the exams (Paper 1: Court Practice, Paper 2: Wills & Estates, Paper 3: Attorneys Practice, Paper 4: Legal Bookkeeping). Book online via our website- remember to register with the LPC on time for your board exams!

To the candidates - GOOD LUCK! May your strong points be strengthened and your weak points be improved on. We wish you great success for your careers!

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