President, Young Lawyers Section
March 2015, President's Message
On February 20, in Pierre, Rapid City, and Sioux Falls, the Young Lawyers Board hosted its annual Young Lawyer Boot Camp. Thank you to our presenters and attendees. This was the first year we held the boot camp in Pierre, although it was a truncated version. Through a four-judge panel, attendees learned about courtroom basics, effective courtroom practice, and how to build skills as a young lawyer. In Rapid City and Sioux Falls, attendees were provided a half-day boot camp on topics including procedural instruction on appellate work, developing a successful intake strategy, investigating electronic communications as evidence, advertising your practice, and estate planning from start to finish. The attendees also received tips from the clerk’s office and a court reporter and advice from a judge on an effective courtroom practice. Through the three boot camps combined, 67 attorneys took advantage of the opportunity to learn from fellow attorneys and court personnel. Now those are some smart lawyers! And for those of you interested in what we learned, you can find the presenters’ materials for Rapid City and Sioux Falls on the State Bar website. We plan for these boot camps to continue to grow in popularity and effectiveness, so please share with us your thoughts and perspectives.
Cheers until next month!
SD YLS President
Mentorship Application | Mentee Application
Bylaws of Young Lawyers
The Puzzle of Law
I fortunately had an opportunity to be Law Clerk for South Dakota’s Fifth Judicial Circuit this past year. My time as a Law Clerk was beneficial in so many ways. I was exposed to countless areas of law which provided a solid foundation to begin a law career. Of course, my transition to private practice meant that my daily work would be limited to few areas of the law, but truthfully I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
I have now been with Siegel, Barnett & Schutz in Aberdeen, SD for about six months, and I am beginning to realize that every day is one of a kind. Truthfully, every client, every case, every issue is a new puzzle to solve. It does not matter if I am drafting a will or an easement; each client gives me a new set of pieces and my job is to put those pieces together in a way that fits the client. The diversity in people and issues makes the practice of law completely rewarding each day.
In order to help with the puzzles along the way, I have received two great pieces of advice that I think all young attorneys can benefit from:
First, ask questions. If you don’t know the answer or are looking to better understand, ask questions. This is often harder than it appears because as attorneys, we want to have the answers to all the questions and, perhaps more to the point, we want to appear as if we have all the answers. The fact is, though, knowledge comes with time and experience, and questions are a vital part of gaining that knowledge.
Second, under-promise and over-perform. This advice goes directly to client management. Even in my short time in private practice, I have promised a client their work will be done by a certain date and failed to meet that deadline. There are legitimate reasons for the delay – another client’s emergency, a last-minute hearing – but the client only notices that you missed your target date. To avoid that uncomfortable situation, I find it wise to set a more realistic completion date. Then, I strive to complete each task before that planned date. Do the same and you’ll be setting yourself up for success and a chance to really impress your clients.
The first year of practice is a time to put your head down and do what is asked of you, but it’s also a time to start growing your client base and to find your own niche as a young attorney. Applying those pieces of advice has come up again and again as I navigate this new position and solve the puzzles that are presented to me on a daily basis. I hope they can do the same for you.
About Matt: Matt practices in Aberdeen as an associate at Siegel, Barnett & Schutz, LLP. He focuses his practice in the areas of general business law and estate planning.