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You studied hard, you worked hard, your resume looked sharp, you handled the interview well, and it all paid off: You got hired! Now, as you look forward to your first day on the job as a legal support professional, a world of opportunities lies ahead of you. Just be sure to avoid the pitfalls that have tripped up new employees in the past.
Legal assistant jobs and law clerk jobs are rarely defined by what’s achieved those first several days. But mistakes made when you're starting out can have a lasting effect on your reputation. Steer clear of these five pitfalls when you're a newbie:
1. Don’t overshoot on your first day.
Everybody wants to make a good impression when they start new legal assistant jobs and law clerk jobs. You want to “wow” your superiors early on. That may push you to volunteer for a project you don’t know you can complete in a time frame you’re not sure you can meet. Or you may feel like you simply can’t say “no” when asked. Better to impress your new boss and colleagues by taking on a sensible workload, doing high-quality work and sticking to deadlines. You’ll earn a reputation as a reliable employee, not someone who makes big promises and fails to deliver.
2. Don’t hide in the corner.
While you don’t want to overextend yourself, take care not to come across as a shirker either. There will be times when you’re not sure of something, you need clarification or advice, or you’re struggling with tasks. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Succeeding as a legal support professional means becoming indispensable to your team and your superiors. Think of it this way: The team as a whole wants the group to succeed, and you’re only improving those chances by requesting support. But be thoughtful and attentive: Make notes of the answers in order to avoid repeating your questions, and try to read up on topics in advance so your questions aren’t simplistic.
3. Don’t go it alone.
In some legal assistant jobs and law clerk jobs, you will be assigned a mentor. Make full use of this assignment. And if your company doesn’t have a formal program, seek out a mentor on your own.
4. Don’t restrict your time to interacting with superiors.
Succeeding in a career takes more than forging relationships with superiors. You’re part of a team and you have peers — maybe even subordinates — and colleagues in other departments. Start building a professional network, and don’t limit yourself to those whose decisions have an immediate impact on your career. Make it a point to interact with everyone, be approachable, and be a person others like to work with.
5. Don’t fear what’s new.
If you’re returning after time away from the industry, things will have changed. Your knowledge gleaned over years in the profession may provide fresh insights for your team, so feel free to offer your thoughts, but also accept that things evolve. Technology has changed how, when and sometimes why we communicate. Regulations change, and companies must ensure they comply. Accept new ways of doing things instead of earning a reputation as old-fashioned and stuck in the past.
The key to a successful start in legal assistant jobs and law clerk jobs is asking as many questions as you need to when you are unsure of something, then working hard to become irreplaceable. Demonstrate your ability to help and an interest in learning, and you’ll be well on your way to a rewarding career in legal support.
Does starting a new job seem like a good problem to have? Take a look at Robert Half’s job search database, and take a step toward a new legal support job of your own.