Jeremy Goldstein earned his Bachelor of Arts in Art History from Cornell University in 1995. Thereafter, he pursued a master’s degree in the same career field at the University of Chicago. He also earned his Juris Doctor in 1999 from the New York University School of Law and was admitted to practice in the State of New York in 2001. Mr. Goldstein was such a rising star that he went from associate to partner in just a year.
Mr. Goldstein has had plenty of experiences over the 19 years in his career, and as one of his passions is educating others, he has thrown together some “Tips of the Trade” for his up-and-coming colleagues.
Learning must be a continuous process. Laws change all the time, and as lawyers, you need to be cognizant of these changes. That requires you not only to remain abreast of all published material relating to your practice areas or, if applicable, areas of board-certified specialization but also to pursue both research and theory in classes. You don’t have to be angling for a Master of Laws or Doctor of Juridical Science, although those are valid goals, to keep yourself educated.
Even though it sounds like daunting proposition for a lawyer to study for classes while maintaining a practice, rearing children, or both, it is possible to balance all of these things with proper time management. Even so, it is highly recommended to do as much of this study as possible before starting a family. This is particularly true if you plan to become board-certified in a discipline that interests you, such as Elder Law, Business Bankruptcy Law, or Estate Law.
Be sure to read all you can about your chosen field. Concentrate on existing precedent first and then move on to new viewpoints and articles that support them. If you can, teach a bit. Teaching something is the best way to learn it!
Seek Out People Who Know More Than You Do
When you get out of law school, that new J.D. shining brightly in a frame on your wall, it’s not uncommon to think that you have all the answers. Well, here’s a wake-up call: You don’t. In fact, no lawyer has all the answers. Did you ever wonder why an attorney has vast bookshelves that are crammed to the top? That’s because that attorney might need to refer to the history of law to bolster a present case in the best interests of a client.
While you’re networking, as all good business people should do, be sure to be on the lookout for lawyers who have years’ experience, preferably in your chosen focus. Don’t be afraid to approach them and to ask questions. If you’re earnest, and they’re honest, then you can glean many kernels of useful information from these wise people. Just remember: They won’t have all the answers either. That’s a good reason to talk to more than one person. You should never have just one mentor.
Honesty and a willingness to help are the two primary characteristics you should seek in a mentor. After all, you don’t want your mentor only to tell you what you want to hear. In a profession such as law, where victory and defeat are sometimes decided by a misplaced comma, you need to hear the unvarnished truth whenever it’s necessary.
Networking, Networking, Networking
In addition to cultivating mentor-pupil relationships as part of your networking with other lawyers, you should make friends with your peers. Help them out when they need someone with your focus. Seek their advice, too, when you need help in their focus areas. No one can do it all alone. The only shame comes from not seeking help when it is warranted.
You must also realize, too, that your friends may be on the other side of a case than you. That comes with the territory. Be vigorous in your representation of your client and scrupulous to a fault regarding the law. Respect your friends on the other side of the table. If you do, they will respect you, too, and you will be recognized as a person of honor.
Always develop these relationships, adversarial or not, with pleasantness and decorum. They might, after all, be able to help you in your career. They could point out mentors to help you, recommend courses of study, or even refer cases to you. The most important thing to remember about such networking is that it must be a two-way street. No one likes an “advantage taker.”
Be Healthy of Both Mind and Body
It may seem counter-intuitive, but it is vitally important for you to get enough sleep. Cases could be won or lost if your attention wavers because of fatigue. Exercise and stay active too. Mental well-being is crucial, and the stress relief after a good workout is great for that. Be mindful of how your actions are affecting you. Take time for your family. Throw a frisbee around in the park with your family. Have a picnic. Take time away from the stacks, the computer, and the incessantly ringing phone. By all means, don’t ignore your cases, but don’t bury yourself in them so deeply that you lose touch with yourself, your family, your friends, and your colleagues.
Take Advantage of Technology
While it might be romantic to think of yourself as a modern-day Clarence Darrow who delves into dusty tomes in some law library basement somewhere while searching for the one case of precedent to make your case, you can check on the exact same case on the internet. Sure, some books may not have been digitized and will require a dusty dive or two into a moldy basement, but the vast majority are only a few clicks away.
Also, although you should keep a paper copy of everything, back it all up digitally and keep a selection of jump drives that contain all of your records in a safe place. Always remember to rely only on valid, peer-reviewed sources for information and citations, especially while composing briefs. Nothing will undermine a case faster than a spurious source that’s supposed to be the basis of your case.
Not Everything Will Work for You
When you get advice, your first instinct will be to take it and run with it. That’s not always the best idea. People are, after all, not infallible, and the trusted, honest mentor who gave you a bit of advice might have made a mistake. Take the advice you get and vet it the same way you would a piece of exculpatory information you found that could lead to a successful result for your client. It’s a good idea never to take anything at face value.
Serious mentors will never take offense if you verify the things they tell you. They’ll realize that it’s their good influence that has led you to a sensible plan of action. If you achieve success after having received and vetted something from a mentor, colleague, or friend, never forget to thank the person appropriately. Be genuine too. Pros can spot you “shining them on” from a mile away. Always be grateful.
Be Generous With Your Own Help
Once you’ve established yourself, you can begin to give your own advice and become a mentor to someone new. Be generous. Remember, you were the one with the shiny, new framed degree to hang on your wall once. Never forget from whence you came. It helps keep you grounded and mindful.