New Lawyer…ing During COVID-19

By way of definition, the HCBA defines a new lawyer as “a lawyer who has been admitted to practice before the Minnesota Supreme Court within the past six years, or is 36 years of age or younger.” However, I think it is fair to say that over the past few months many lawyers have likely felt like new lawyers or that they have had to face new challenges to how they practice law.

It has always perplexed me a tad that we call it “practicing law.” However, of the countless things I have learned over the past few months, two of the main conclusions I have reached are: (1) “practicing law” is absolutely the best possible phrase for what lawyers try to do and (2) in many ways we are all always going to be new lawyers.

As new lawyers, for better or for the most part worse, you have to just try new ways of doing your job. You do not know any better but you know you have a job to get done. So we do the best we can. We look up at successful more experienced attorneys and try to conduct ourselves as we see these attorneys practicing.

When I think of the lawyers, who in my own definition are the best and are the ones I look up to, they all view their profession as a practice. These lawyers are flexible, they try new ways of practicing law while at the same time maintaining the tried and true that helped them create their successful practice.

I have been excited and amazed at how lawyers have responded to COVID-19 and how lawyers have made the necessary adjustments to continue successfully practicing law. Lawyers, new and “seasoned,” alike have used video calling platforms to connect with clients. They have made adjustments to make technology work to their advantage. And they have focused on the future.

While none of us can know how long the current challenges will stay a part of our daily lives, or what future struggles we might face, I believe that lawyers can successfully meet the challenges by being willing to adjust to the times and try to be their best. We must always make sure we provide clients with solid representation and adhere to the obligations of our profession. At the same time I think we should also continue to try new ways to practice law and provide for our clients.

As “New Lawyers” facing new and unexpected challenges to practicing law I recommend we keep in mind the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt when he said, “Take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly, and try another. But by all means, try something.” If you have yet to try a video call with a client, try it and see if it works for you and the client. If it does, great! If not, that is fine too. Try other new ways to adjust your practice to these times.

And as a new lawyer myself, I know one of the best parts of being new and in the HCBA is that other lawyers love to assist newbies. So if you are unsure of how to use a new platform or what adjustments you can make, reach out to another lawyer. Tell them you are new and I am sure they will be more than happy to help.
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By Nick Ryan
nmr@ethicsmaven.com 

Nick Ryan is an associate attorney at the Law Office of Eric T. Cooperstein where he represents and consults with lawyers facing legal ethics issues. Ryan also helps applicants to the Minnesota Bar and represents applicants before the Minnesota Board of Law Examiners. Previously, he was a law clerk at the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility. Ryan is also the Secretary/Treasurer of the HCBA New Lawyers Section.