Bar News - March 23, 2007
New Lawyers’ Column: New Lawyer Trauma
By: Ralph Giangregorio
So, you passed the bar. Congratulations! It’s a notable accomplishment.
It took four years of undergraduate school, three grueling years of law school and weeks of intensive and pressure-filled studying. All that for that coveted license to practice law.
It is a great achievement. It’s probably the greatest achievement of your life. Your family and friends are proud of you. You should be proud of yourself too. You are now an officer of the court, a member of the state bar association and you are respected wherever you go. At last, you can breathe a little easier.
You may not be one of those who started working in their father or mother’s law firm. Maybe you were not lucky enough to be working at a law firm already so that you had a position ready for you once you passed the bar.
So, with your certificate and new-found status in tow, you set out to find work for your skills. It’s time to reap the benefits of all your hard work.
The first thing you do is apply to law firms, then state and federal agencies. But for some new lawyers, interviews are rare and the few they get end with “we want experienced lawyers.” After a few months of this you may begin to become concerned.
What do you do next? You may try to do legal work on your own. But there are expenses. Rent is costly and you need supplies and a phone. If you are an older new lawyer, you have a family to support. And the few cases you are able to get may be complex. Who do you turn to for help? Cases are few and far-between and take up way too much of your time. And your income is barely covering your expenses. You thought the hard part was the schooling and passing the bar but nothing prepared you for this. Anxiety and tension could also make things even worse for you. As the weeks go by and turn into months you start to wonder if you even are a lawyer. You may feel that you are just somebody out there trying to survive.
If this sounds like your situation, you may be experiencing New Lawyer Trauma. Don’t be dismayed. This happens to many new lawyers every day. The thing you must realize is that you are not alone. In fact, you should not be alone.
And though you may not know it, you do have many people who are willing and able to assist you in getting started with your law career. They are the people who are part of the New Hampshire Bar Association (NHBA). It is truly an organization that helps new lawyers.
The NHBA can assist you with finding an office or even advise you on setting up an office in your home or apartment. It can also help you find clients through many of the Bar’s programs, such as the Lawyer Referral Service. And if you are having a tough time with complex cases, it may even help you find a mentor. If that isn’t enough, you could gain experience by taking a pro bono case or two through the Pro Bono referral program.
As a member of the NHBA, you have the ability to network with the largest group of lawyers in the state.
The NHBA also has many sections and committees, including a New Lawyers’ Committee, which you can join. Members perform a valuable service to the community and, in many cases, gain insight into the modern-day legal issues. You are also serving with other attorneys with a great deal of experience who are ready and willing to help you. And there are listservs where attorneys can get answers to questions online concerning many areas of law.
Believe me; it is not easy for the new lawyer at any age.
That is why the NHBA is there for you. Once you begin to take advantage of the benefits and services the NHBA has to offer, you will be much more confident about your professional life, knowing that there are many dedicated people able to help you go forward in your legal career. You may even begin to breathe easier again.
Ralph Giangregorio, a sole practitioner in Londonderry, joined the NH Bar in 2004 and is a member of the New Lawyers’ Committee.