Congratulations, winter clerk, you've got the job! Now what? How do you set yourself apart from the other clerks? How do you ‘win friends and influence people’? What does the firm really expect of you? Here are some handy tips for wowing your new firm...
Be punctual, enthusiastic and don't be afraid to ask questions
Show your interest in the firm and in your role. Go the extra mile and show initiative. I once had a partner ask me to find the answer to one question, when it was obvious to me that he actually meant something else that he couldn't explain. I researched what he had originally asked, then spent a little time on what I thought he actually wanted. Success!
On a practical level, be organised. Save a copy of everything you find and do. Lawyers’ desks have properties similar to black holes, where lovingly prepared memorandums meet with unforeseen circumstances. Make sure you keep good records of your instructions, and if it’s not obvious, always ask how long you should spend on a task and when it's needed by.
If you're struggling, ask for help
It's a sign of strength, not weakness, to approach a supervisor for assistance or admit that you can't complete a task within your given timeframe. No-one expects you to get everything right or be perfect, but they expect you to try your hardest and develop a good working relationship with your colleagues. And regardless of what law school leads you to believe, some legal questions simply don't have answers. Just do the best you can.
Dress to impress
Your legal brilliance is only part of the equation. As a clerk, you will also be judged on your appearance and presentation. Concentrate on the details, like having polished shoes and a neatly ironed outfit. If you're unsure whether something's appropriate to wear to work, it's probably not. There's a grey area when it comes to some piercings in the workplace – it’s best to take them out or use plastic retainers until you know the firm's attitude.
It sounds simple, but smile and be polite to everyone you meet, regardless of their role. It’s just as important to impress the partner's secretary as it is to impress the partner. When considering who to employ after the clerkship, multiple people's opinions matter.
Avoid office gossip. If pressured to give your opinion on someone, it's perfectly acceptable to say, "I don't know them well enough yet to have an opinion".
This also goes for your fellow clerks. Although you may privately think that they're a shaved weasel in a suit, the firm will be watching your interactions with other clerks so always be civil and respectful. On the other hand, if you're lucky enough to have awesome fellow clerks, make sure that you're not seen hanging around the tearoom or their offices gossiping at inappropriate times. That's also a bad look.
Be sociable where appropriate; talk to your colleagues, stay for a while at Friday night drinks and go to any functions you're invited to. However, watch your alcohol consumption and alternate with non-alcoholic drinks. Throwing up on the managing director at the annual social is a career-limiting move.
Avoid office romance
Although the solicitor in the little glass box next to you is delicious, don't go there. Full stop. Dating or sleeping with a co-worker is a really bad idea, as is making obvious advances. If your personalities do click, there's always scope for a relationship after your clerkship is finished, but not before.
Finally, be yourself. Don't try to hide your real personality and present what you think is an appropriately serious "lawyer" image.If you're a slightly crazy, eccentric, theatrical type, embrace it. You never know, the managing partner of your firm may also share your love of the hit musical Wicked!
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