How to command respect when you’re the new hire at a law firm

Landing a new position as a legal professional can garner both excitement and anxiety. These tips will help you make a smoother transition and command the respect you deserve in the post-pandemic workforce.

Has there ever been a more bizarre time in law firm history than the last 18 months? We all know it, the pandemic changed everything for legal professionals. As things slowly—and tentatively—return to normal, more than a few legal professionals are returning to the workplace. For many, that means new jobs at new places with new policies, new colleagues, and new procedures.

With so many new hires coming into law firms, how are you supposed to command the respect you deserve?

Here are our top tips for doing just that:

Show you used your off-time wisely

We all know it is hard to stay motivated when you’re off work. It is much easier to watch movies and cry (my favorite pandemic pastimes) than it is to do anything to further your career. That said, your involuntary sabbatical is the perfect time for you to learn and master new skills.

For example, if you never used eFiling before the pandemic, why not use some of your time off to learn the ins and outs of eFiling? Likewise, if you’ve never practiced in the field of construction law but just got a tip on a job in construction litigation, why not study the basics of that field for a few days?

As legal professionals, we have no shortage of things we need to be learning. Use this time off to make yourself a more desirable employee when the time comes.

Get your wardrobe in shape

Even though most of us have been living in sweatpants since approximately March 2020, now is the time to invest in those extra power pieces. If you want to command respect in your new job, put away your fuzzy slippers and get back into your work attire. This seemingly simple act can’t help but have a positive impact on your new job.

Be confident, not cocky

This is good advice for legal professionals at any point in their career, but it is especially true when starting a new job. Undoubtedly, confidence is a good thing. Arrogance is not. Confidence comes from knowing what you’re doing. Arrogance comes from wanting people to think you know what you’re doing when you don’t. Your new employers know this, so it’s a good idea to keep your ego in check. The truth is everyone’s patience is worn thin right now. When you present yourself as anything less than authentic, you may find that people simply want to avoid you.

Be a thoughtful observer

As you begin your new job, remember this one thing above all else: you don’t know anything. Sure, you may have excellent legal training, but you don’t know anything about working in this particular workplace. Considering that, take a week or two to quietly watch and learn what’s happening around you. By simply being a thoughtful observer, you will learn how to navigate this new workplace in a way that is beneficial to you and your new employer.

Be tech-savvy

Legal technology is constantly evolving. Regardless of how long you’ve been in the legal profession, today’s law firms expect you to be knowledgeable on the technologies that impact their practices. Perhaps this is because their business clients expect the same from their outside law firms. Or maybe it is due to the fact that tech knowledge became critical during the pandemic. Regardless of the reasoning, it can only help you to gain respect in your new workplace and be prepared for technical challenges that may come your way.

Be thoughtful about returning to work

One of the things many legal professionals are struggling with right now is whether they want to return to an office environment at all. If going back to an office simply doesn’t work with your “new normal,” be honest about that. You may find that your new employer respects your wishes and will allow you to work from home, at least part-time. One sure way to lose respect in your new firm, however, is to return to a place you don’t want to be.

Over the next few months, more of us than ever before will be walking into new jobs at new law firms. Uncertainties are at an all-time high, opinions about whether we should or should not be returning to the office are all over the map, and it is really tempting to get dragged into the fray. Try to resist the temptation to do that and remind yourself that your main job right now is to gain the trust and respect of your peers. If you can do that, you may just end up with a job that lasts well beyond your expectations.

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