February 3, 2023

Six Tips to Improve Your Lawyering

As a young lawyer starting your practice in Prince William County, you may have a few questions about the ins and outs of what goes on inside the courthouse. So, I asked the superior staff for any tips and tricks they want new (and not-so-new) attorneys to know.

First, grow your network. The easiest way to do this is to join the local bar association.[1] The Prince William County Bar Association is a great opportunity to find local mentors, join happy hours, and dance at the annual Bar Dinner Dance. These networking opportunities also provide the chance to get to know your local judges off the bench and off the record. The local Bar Association has resources available to help you along the way and an endless number of attorneys willing to sacrifice their time to be that resource for you. Joining the local Bar is the best way to be a voice; whether that be a voice for change, for learning, or for positivity.

Second, stay organized and be prepared. This tip seems simple, but several staff members advised this ‘tip and trick’ is the key to standing out as a young lawyer. Make sure the information you provide to opposing counsel, the court, the clerks, and your client is relevant and correct. Know your deadlines. Know the facts. Know the law. And be confident in that knowledge. Remember, confidence only comes when you are organized and prepared.

Third, be polite, professional, and courteous. Another seemingly simple tip often forgotten in the adversarial system. Be kind to the clerks, the deputies, opposing counsel, the judges, and your client. This will help a young attorney stand out as a positive force in the legal field.

Fourth, take note of court decorum. Always introduce yourself to the Court when you appear in court. Stand when you address the Court. Refrain from addressing opposing counsel in court. Arrive dressed to impress; you want the Court focused on your words, not your outfit. Do not show satisfaction or dissatisfaction during any court proceedings; practice your poker face at home.

Fifth, integrity is everything; it is hard earned and easily lost. Be honest with the Court, with opposing counsel, with your client, and (most importantly) with yourself. If you do not know an answer, say so. Your colleagues, the Court, and your clients lend more respect to you if you are honest than if you give them a nonresponse because you are unsure of the correct answer.

Lastly, communicate. The courthouse can be a hectic place; and no one understands that more than its staff. But, do your best to communicate with the deputies if you are in several different courtrooms. That will ensure the opposing counsel and presiding judge know where you are and know you did not forgot about your court appearance.

Transitioning from learning legal theory in law school to legal practice in a law firm (or solo) is a daunting challenge. No more last minute studying for exams; now it’s last minute trial prep. No more twenty page essays; now it’s twenty page briefs. No more late, coffee-fueled nights; now it’s…well it’s still late, coffee-fueled nights.

Good luck to all the new, young lawyers starting out their practice in the Commonwealth of Virginia. With these tips and tricks in mind, you will make a difference in your client’s life, a colleague’s day, and this great profession.

[1] Applications for the Prince William Bar Association can be found here: https://www.pwcba.org/Join/join.php. For more information please contact Peyton Gwinn at [email protected].

About the Author

Sanders Portrait

Taylor Sanders , an Ohio native, graduated from the University of Toledo with a Bachelor of Science degree in Paralegal Studies, specializing in Litigation. Taylor later graduated from the Antonin Scalia Law School, where she was an active participant in Trial Advocacy Association, the Journal for Law, Economics and Policy, and Law Students for the Second Amendment.

Before joining the Irving Law Firm, Taylor worked in Alexandria, Virginia assisting in political and civil litigation. Since she joined the Irving Law Firm, she has focused primarily on criminal defense.<