Ideally, your office will be filled with interesting and talented people who do good work without generating drama, and who can be trusted with professional confidences. You should make sincere efforts to get to know both lawyers and staff because you will work closely with them.
Your parents taught you to “look both ways before you cross the street.” You listened, and your street-crossing skills are superb.
When you go to work with strangers who are not your best pals from Torts, and whose reactions and behaviors are unknown to you, looking both ways before crossing the hall is a good strategy. Be wary of divulging too much information to your new colleagues before you know how it will be received and shared.
Your new colleagues have their own ethics, habits, and quirks.
Will they repeat what you say and misinterpret your comments? If you are working with a partner who is very busy and doesn’t return calls, tweets or email, you don’t want another clerk to announce that “you and he think that Joe is a nightmare partner.”
Unless you hear from someone who likes you (your assistant, perhaps), you won’t know until it’s too late that the hip young lawyer who has befriended you is known (in a bad way) as “Party Chick.” Her reputation could drag you down.
Sometimes a suit is just a suit.
Just because your colleagues wear Italian suits and expensive watches doesn’t mean that their behavior is something for you to emulate.
If it was funny at your frat house, count on it not being funny at work.
Two summer associates held up big signs urging the women at the high rise office tower across the street to “Call Hot Tony” with his phone number on the signs. Tony, the firm’s managing partner whose office was next to theirs, was not amused at a series of vaguely obscene phone calls. The firm’s Legal Personnel Director busted the “boys,” and management refused to cave in to pressure from their well-connected families after neither received a permanent offer.
Some elementary school skills do not translate well to office etiquette.
A second-career law student astonished the staff at his law firm when he demonstrated his skill of shooting paper clips from rubber bands at his secretary. There continues to be speculation about what sort of former employer found that behavior appropriate.
Confidentiality is the absolute rule outside the office.
Do not talk about clients or client business outside of the office. When you are sitting in a bar talking about work with your new pals, you won’t know until it’s too late that the guy in jeans at the table next to you knows EXACTLY who you are talking about because it’s his client, too. When he calls your boss to report on your conversation, you may be fired on the spot.
“Outside of the office” includes the elevator.
Bottom Line: Working with strangers is a risky undertaking. Listen and learn
******Susan Gainen has created a suite of programs just for law students: Alternative Careers, Second Career Law Students, Professionalism, Job Search Skills = Business Development Skills, Job Search Outside of OCI: The Forever Skill (unless you are a Ground-Hog-Day-2L). In addition to 25 years of legal career development activity (headhunter, law school career development, consultant), she is an artist. Her other workshops include “Open Your Heart and Close Your Wallet: Watercolor Postcards for Travelers,” and “Cave Painting with Gesso.”