Sheila Kazemian (B.A.’13, J.D./M.S.H.A. ’17)
I don’t think there’s a single first-year associate who hasn’t had feelings of doubt, hasn’t been scared or hasn’t wanted to “be more.”
In my first year, I have found myself floating between feeling confident in my grasp of what is going and then feeling completely overwhelmed and realizing there aren’t enough hours in the day. Sometimes it feels like my first year is just one big initiation into living life in six-minute intervals and constantly turning to legal search engines.
But, I have realized the point of the first year of practice is to learn what works for you, what doesn’t and what skills you need to set the foundation for your career. I feel incredibly fortunate to work at a firm that values teamwork and to have supportive partners who value their associates.
One piece of advice I was given by a young partner, which I value and think of daily, is to “treat your supervising partner like a client.” Our firms and our supervising partners took a chance on us. They trust us with their work, and they are teaching us how to excel so that we can be assets to the firm. Our mission at Hall Booth Smith P.C. is “Serving to achieve excellence.” As first-year associates, I believe we should be treating our partners like clients we wish to serve.
Having a strong support system outside of your job is also essential to working towards success. My first day of work, I felt both anxious and blessed. My family called to wish me luck, and they discounted any feelings of doubt I expressed.
It’s important and helpful to call your family, your friends, your significant other or whoever else pulls you up when you start to feel stress creep into your thoughts, and thank them.
Sheila Kazemian (B.A. ’13, J.D./M.S.H.A. ’17) is an associate in the Atlanta office of Hall Booth Smith P.C. She focuses her practice on the defense of hospitals, physicians and health care providers in medical malpractice actions.
Pierre-Joseph Noebes (J.D. ’17)
In my first year of practice, I have been fortunate to learn from the incredible attorneys around me as they work through a variety of problems. They are constantly thinking about why a client may want to take one approach over another, or how a particular strategy may seem better on paper but be disadvantageous in practice. Through all of this, I think back to a piece of advice a shareholder gave me when I first started —“Don’t be a lawyer that only says ‘no.’”
At the time I assumed this was his subtle way of telling me that as a first-year associate, I had to take on every case or question that came my way. I now realize he was saying so much more.
Providing the effective legal advice and counsel that every client issue deserves is not just about finding the answer to a question. My shareholder was telling me it is our responsibility to look beyond “no”— to look beyond the simple answers and consider how we can provide a meaningful solution to our clients’ problems while helping them achieve their business goals, even when the options are unclear.
That small piece of advice has continued to motivate me throughout my first year of practice. While it can be difficult to find meaningful solutions at times given my lack of experience as a first-year associate, I use those instances as opportunities to learn from the experience and expertise of those around me.
By asking questions and searching for that meaningful solution, I can not only offer my supervising attorney the best approach to a problem, but I can continue to improve and prepare myself for the rest of my career.
Pierre-Joseph Noebes (J.D. ’17) is an associate at Littler Mendelson. He represents and counsels employers in a broad range of employment matters arising under federal and state law. He is also a class representative on Georgia State’s Law Alumni Council.