California Lawyers Association

Welcome, New Lawyers. We Got You!

April 2023

California Lawyers Association Vice President Betty Williams addressed a reception for new lawyers hosted by the San Joaquin County Bar Association and the Bank of Stockton in March.

She welcomed them to the profession and offered her tips for how to have a successful legal career. Here are highlights from her message:

  • You just achieved an enormous goal. Now the real work—and fun—begins.
  • Regardless of how you got here, you all have grit, courage, resolve, and strength of character.
  • Your individual personal experiences will enrich our field.
  • Your generation of lawyers will work on climate change, first amendment rights in social media, surveillance through smartphones and digital fingerprints, rights regarding gender identity and expression of sexual orientation, and other areas where new laws and regulatory schemes will be designed and enacted to ensure the safe and democratic future of our country and world.
  • Ultimately, we are in the business of helping people solve problems, meet goals, and improve society.
  • As you develop your professional identity, really listen to your clients and hear their short-term goals so you can advise them on long-term effects they may not have considered.
  • Respond to clients timely, acknowledge their fear when appropriate, and let them know you are here to help.
  • Always be cordial to opposing counsel. Remember, your behavior is part of the oath you just took to “strive to conduct yourself at all times with dignity, courtesy, and integrity.”
  • Understand the arguments on both sides of the issue. 
  • Advocacy isn’t always in a courtroom. Advocacy in writing briefs and letters is crucial. Know what you want and start there.
  • When you do something for the first time, research and look for examples from others.
  • Go to court to see how it works before you ever have to appear to learn the judge’s style and know how things work.
  • Learn the business of being a lawyer. If you were getting an invoice from a lawyer, what would you want to see from your attorney?
  • Your reputation is important. If you are struggling, seek help before a problem snowballs.
  • Have balance in your life with other people and outside interests.
  • Get involved in your local and state bar associations. The people you meet and the experiences you have will make you a better lawyer and help you in so many ways.
  • Don’t lose sight of the ability to improve our society and make a difference in the world.
  • When you see corruption or unjust abuse of power, you must speak up.
  • Stand out by using your skills in a positive way for the betterment of others. 

CLA officers are available to speak at new swearing-in ceremonies around the state. To schedule, please reach out to Jen Navarro.

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