Member Groups

The newsletter of the ISBA’s Young Lawyers Division

February 2012, vol. 56, no. 4

Pay it forward

Pay it forward. Do something good for someone now, and in the future, when you need assistance, someone will help you. It is a circular pattern. The person paying it forward receives internal satisfaction for serving and the recipient feels gratitude for the assistance.

Young lawyers often seek the advice of seasoned practitioners on a variety of issues, such as: career changes; bar association involvement; networking; and, of course, substantive legal issues. Although it might take courage to initiate the phone call or e-mail to ask for help, in my experience, I have found that most lawyers are more than willing to make time in their schedules to help me and are happy to do so. I suspect that many seasoned practitioners remember reaching out for help as young lawyers, and appreciate the time, experiences, and direction they received. I am confident that most seasoned practitioners understand the concept of “paying it forward.”

I am six years out of law school. I was recently asked to talk to law students and my initial thoughts were, “What sort of advice can I provide? I am just a young lawyer myself.” I thought it was comical that someone would ask me for advice in the legal field. I still ask for advice from seasoned practitioners all the time. Still questioning what assistance I might be able to provide, I went to the meeting. To my surprise, law students actually learned from me. Law students even followed up with me after the presentation. Over the past few years I have spent countless hours asking seasoned attorneys for advice. I have been so grateful for the time and attention they have provided to me. For the first time in the legal field, I was the one to “pay forward” and the concept came full circle for me.

Although I am sure most agree that nothing can compare to the advice of seasoned practitioners, I have come to learn that young lawyers can share great learning experiences as well. We have had the experiences of first court calls, first depositions, first trials, and the first angry client. We have had experiences negotiating job salaries and changing jobs. We have had several experiences from which law students and newly licensed attorneys can learn a great deal.

Although I hesitate to provide each of you with a challenge at the risk of sounding too “Oprah-ish,” I am going to do so anyway. Pay it forward! Next time you receive a call or an e-mail asking for advice or an informational interview, respond. Set up a conference call for your lunch break, meet someone for coffee before work or for 20 minutes at the end of the day before you leave the office. Next time you receive an e-mail from your undergraduate college or law school asking for volunteers, volunteer! Give a presentation to law students or judge a moot court competition. Follow the great patterns that have been set for us by seasoned practitioners and make time. One day you will need help, someone will respond, you will be grateful, and the wonderful cycle of paying it forward will continue! ■