From Participant to Facilitator: Tips for Early Career Lawyers Running Their First Matter

By Brendan Reidy, Senior Associate at Behlau Murakami Grant

From participant to facilitator: Tips for Early Career Lawyers running their first matter

Embarking on your legal journey involves more than just playing a supporting role. 


Initially, the role of the early career lawyer is a pretty simple one: be part of the team and complete the tasks that are assigned to you. Later, there will come a day where you need to shift from passively participating in a matter, to actively facilitating the whole thing yourself. 


This article explores some tips from your Future Leaders Committee as to what you might want to keep in mind as you work towards independence as a lawyer. 


Start thinking critically.

Move beyond being a passive observer in meetings. In your early days, you will have found yourself acting as a “fly on the wall” in meetings, with your main responsibilities including take notes and making sure that you are on top of the key action items that will follow. 


As you progress through your career, it is important to shift your mindset from notetaking to identifying critical questions that will give you enough information to proactively progress your client’s case. 


Go back to first principles.

Amidst the complexities of any matter, revisit the fundamentals. It is incredibly easy to get lost in the chaos of your client’s case. Your client will also likely wish to focus on the emotional aspect of the matter, as opposed to the legal issues that actually need to be resolved in order to achieve the result that they are looking for. 


Consider: What are the elements of this cause of action? Is there sufficient evidence to establish each element? What thresholds are in effect? What is the position at common law?


Think logically about next steps.

What are the next immediate steps required in order to progress the matter? 


Consider this scenario: your client has asked you to prepare a claim and statement of claim, you’ve done the hard work and it’s all ready to be filed, but you don’t have sufficient funds in trust to cover the filing fee. Was the client even aware that there was going to be a filing fee on top of your professional fees? Have you checked to ensure that the fee hasn’t increased since the last time you filed? 


Making sure that you are on top of these micro steps will ensure that your matter flows efficiently and that your client is content with the service that you are offering. 


You don’t need to know everything.

It's okay not to have all the answers. If faced with an unfamiliar question, resist the urge to guess. Instead, express your commitment to providing accurate information after consulting with your team or conducting further research. Honesty and diligence go a long way. Your client will no doubt respect your response and be grateful for your attention to detail. 


Your client might not always have a great case. 

Recognise that not every case will end with a triumphant victory. A skilled lawyer identifies when a client has a challenging case and strives to secure the most favourable terms. Seek guidance from senior lawyers when sensing a tough case, ensuring transparent communication with your client along the way.


Obviously, this list is not exhaustive and it won’t apply to everyone, but these are important points to keep in mind as you progress through the early stages of your legal career. Keeping an open mind to critical thinking will help any early career lawyer produce excellent results for their clients and start pushing their case for promotion up the ladder. 


Embrace the responsibility, learn from each interaction, and watch as you not only improve your legal skills but emerge as a confident leader in your early career.