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Student Lawyer: How to lead in your legal career with civility

Practicing Law With Civility

Attorneys hold a unique position in society and have a responsibility to be peacemakers. That starts with practicing with civility. Here’s how to do your part. Learn how to be mindful of others—and be aware of when you’re potentially being uncivil—in the latest issue of Student Lawyer magazine.

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The rules of civil(ity) procedure
Being Civil Being courteous and professional isn’t just the right thing to do. It will also make you a better lawyer, increase the esteem of your colleagues, raise the profile of your reputation, and result in a less stressful and more successful career. Because of that, I thought it might be helpful to offer some tips on how to avoid the pitfalls of incivility and start your career off on the right foot.

What law school never taught you about getting along with your peers
Legal ColleaguesIt should have been among the first courses you took. It’s far more important than civil procedure or property. It’s about what was already buried deep within you when you decided to go to law school. That discipline is the full understanding of simply getting along in good faith, with generosity and kindness, with all of the peers with whom you’ll interact.

Seeking civility during your job search
Job InterviewYour potential employers take your professionalism in the interview as a sign of your civility in the practice of law. Your employer wants you to be relatable and personable and is watching for these skills before you ever step foot into the office on day one of the job.

Minimize microaggressions: How to avoid unintentional offenses
MicroaggressionYou’d have to have been cut off from all news for the past several years not to have heard the term microaggression. In its simplest terms, it’s an unintentional slight that’s usually based around someone’s identity. Microaggressions seem minor. But these small slights compound to the point where they have a bigger impact than their original intention.

Training tools you can use to achieve civility
Civility TrainingFor all the lawyer jokes out there, and despite there obviously being some particularly rude law students, legal educators, and practicing attorneys, many more regularly practice politeness, especially in their professional roles. The concept sounds easy, but exactly what does it mean to be civil? Here are specific tips you can deploy in tense moments.

Incivility insights: Professor teaches using her own life experiences
Law ProfessorAs a law professor, I draw on upon my own encounters to educate students, of all races and creeds, about the importance of treating all people with decency and respect. I stress that people are individuals, and we are to be judged by the content of our character and not to be judged by broad, sweeping perceptions of the groups to which they belong.

Civility made simple: It’s the right choice
Civil ColleaguesThere’s no shortage of incivility in the country today. On what seems like a daily basis, we’re witness to more divisiveness, more violence, and more ugly rhetoric than I’ve ever experienced in my lifetime. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we, as lawyers and future lawyers, took it upon ourselves to set the standard for words and deeds?

Do you actually need a full-time job? Try freelance legal work
Freelance LawyerMany attorneys who want flexibility and freedom have turned to freelancing for meaningful, substantial legal work. Opportunities for freelance legal work have even increased recently as law firms suddenly needed help in both litigation and transactional work—especially as courts opened up after COVID-19-related closures.

Head of the Class
Zoom School of Law: From meme to moneymaker
Sadie HillierIn the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic this spring, one clever law student transformed the distressing idea of online law school into a multi-thousand dollar organization. Sadie Hillier’s Zoom Law School merchandise raised more than $46,000, all of which was donated to Feeding America and other nonprofits.

I Wish I’d Known
Barbara McQuade: If you want something, you have to ask for it
Barbara McQuadeI’ve seen lawyers make this mistake again and again. They believe that if they’re highly qualified, someone will come and tap them on the shoulder to offer them business, a promotion at work, an appointment to the bench, or an opportunity to run for public office. It almost never works that way. You have to raise your hand and volunteer.

Pro Bono
ABA adopts police reform, racial justice resolutions
Qualified ImmunityResolutions addressing qualified immunity for law enforcement officials, their use of lethal force, and hate crimes were among those passed by the ABA’s House of Delegates at its Annual Meeting in August.

Student Lawyer Student Lawyer magazine provides guidance on educational, career, and related issues for ABA Law Student Division members and other subscribers. It is published four times a year by the Law Student Division of the American Bar Association. Student Lawyer is available online to members of the ABA Law Student Division and to print subscribers.