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A Message for New Attorneys - Find a Mentor


For a new attorney, the transition from graduating law school, studying for and passing the bar exam to being sworn in and “hitting the ground running” is short and quick. Literally, over the course of only a few months, you will go from sitting in a classroom to working in a firm or running a business. This transition will be overwhelming without the resources in place to help you succeed along the way.

Look around at many of the attorneys who you consider to be successful. I guarantee you, they did not reach that point alone.

Graduating law school only prepares you to practice law. You must still learn how to practice law. Learning to practice law is an evolving process. One that never reaches perfection. The successful attorneys are always learning more. They read, listen, watch and are not afraid to take chances even at the risk of failing. If you are going to be successful, you are going to fail along the way.

So, what can a new attorney do to immediately start the path of success? Find a mentor. Find more than one. The truth is, you need someone who you can watch, emulate and go to for advice. Whether you are facing an issue involving a difficult client or a procedural or legal issue (no matter the complexity), you must have someone who you can turn to.

The style of your practice will evolve. You have two choices: grow or regress. There is no in between. You will learn what you consider to be the “do’s and don’ts” from people you are around. You will get rid of bad habits and adopt new ones. You will learn from your mistakes. And, if you are serious about your growth as an attorney, you will benefit from your mentors. Remember, when you have the opportunity, reach back and do your part as well. I know I owe a lot of thanks to those who have helped and continue to help me.

Tommy Santel is a co-founding partner of Santel | Garner. Tommy is a former government prosecutor. He is a Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 31 General Civil Mediator. Tommy’s practice areas include criminal defense and civil litigation.

This blog is made available by Santel | Garner for educational purposes only as well as to provide general information and a general overview of the law, not provide specific legal advice. By using this blog and website, you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and Santel | Garner . This blog and website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state.