The entire months of May to October were a complete blur for me. Everything moved so slow; yet so quickly. Since the month before I graduated I had been diligently searching for jobs and applying where I could. Once I received my bar passage results my job search went into high gear, and so did my desire to start working. I felt blessed in that I was getting interviews, but they were scattered far and wide between different areas of law and different places in the legal industry. And then, just as I was about to embark on a second interview for a non-traditional legal position a very dear friend of mine reached out to me almost out of nowhere and asked if I might be interested in a position at the firm she would be leaving in a few days. I jumped at the chance, and in a span of exactly one week I attended two interviews and accepted their offer. I was beyond excited to finally start my legal career.
And here we are, almost a month later. I can hardly believe it. My first week was completely overwhelming; emotionally and intellectually. I had very little experience in workers compensation defense, and the firm expected me to learn as I went. There was no formal training, and there would be no hand holding–not now; not ever. That wasn’t a problem; I’m a quick learner, but I didn’t expect to be completely thrown in the deep end of the pool without at least floaters. My first week as a new associate made me deeply appreciate my CTA internship because I was thrown in at the deep end there too. Not to this extent, but it at least gave me an idea of how it felt to be completely trusted. I learned how to handle complicated files, and I learned how to stifle the fear of approaching senior attorneys to ask for help. From what I’ve heard, it’s pretty much a norm to just be thrown in as new associates. Terrifying, no? I’m so grateful for a few of the senior attorneys at this firm who have used their precious billing time to walk me through typical issues that crop up in cases, to describe the general process of filed claims and to show me how to do things correctly. I’ve learned so much in such a short amount of time. It’s amazing how we, as humans, adjust to different situations and pressures. In law school, you learn a lot of theory and legal analysis, but learning to perform as an actual attorney is an entirely different matter. There are still so many things that I simply don’t know.
Today, I still feel overwhelmed, and I probably will for awhile. I find myself fretting over little things simply because I’m unsure of my next steps on a case, and it takes me a little bit longer to feel around for what I should have grasped at the beginning. I also haven’t been assigned an actual case load yet, which I’m partially thankful for, so I’ve been mainly assisting other attorneys on their case load. It’s a nice way to ease in, but I’m also just as responsible for the cases as the assigned attorney. I’m honestly just terrified I’m going to drop the ball somewhere or screw up, but that’s just the nature of the beast for any new attorney. I also know my firm understands there is a learning curve, and that is the cost the firm took in hiring 3 new associates versus experienced lateral hires. I know God has this all under control, so I just need to remind myself to trust in Him for all things. I want less of me and more of Him to shine through daily.
I think the most complicated and challenging task I’ve had to get used to working in a private firm is billing hours. In a nutshell, many attorneys in the private sector must keep track of their time so they can bill their clients accordingly. My firm bills every 6 minutes. Of course, there are also minimums that must be met. It’s a lot of pressure, especially since I grew up in the public sector as a law student where there was no billing. I’m pretty detail-oriented so keeping track of my tasks hasn’t been too bad, but it’s keeping track of my time and interruptions to the best of my ability that is difficult. I do take solace in the fact that all billables go through the COO before they get to the client, but it’s still a lot of pressure to bill correctly.
As alluded to before, I work at a private firm that handles a large volume of workers compensation defense matters with a smattering of labor and employment law. I LOVE civil defense work when dealing with certain issues. I really do. I just don’t think I could be on the other side when dealing with personal injury/workers comp/labor & employment matters. I find that strange to say since I have a such a deep compassion for people, but I value honesty and integrity too. The worst tends to come out in claims on the defense side in those three areas of law–it’s super interesting to me. The firm hopes to expand on their labor and employment side (which is what I really want to see happen), but for now, we spend our days defending workers compensation cases. I worked on a small workers comp case at the CTA, but I’m in awe at how interesting some of these cases can get. I’m also in shock at how much math I have to calculate to figure out exposure rates. I’m definitely outside of my comfort zone, but I also enjoy the challenges. I look forward to the day when I can say to myself, “I have this all under control, and I don’t need to ask anyone for help.” I’m grateful to be here, and I continue to look forward to whatever the future brings.