This article is aimed at the prospective candidate attorney and what he or she must do or know to be prepared for articles. The long and short of this is that no matter how much information “those in the know” may try to impart on you, the necessary attitude, skills and know-how that you will need only becomes apparent once you are a clerk! However, before you panic, there are a few core principles that any candidate attorney could bear in mind to make the scary leap from student to clerk a bit easier. It is easy ladies and gentlemen, just know your ABC’s!
Attitude – a positive attitude goes a long way. Not only does staying positive tame that inner critic but it endears you to your colleagues and your seniors who will be all the more willing to assist in times of need.
Brains – use them. Yes, while you may feel at times that your brain might not be as full of information as you thought it was at the end of your 4th year of varsity, keep learning! Every day that you learn something new, even by trial and error, is a good day!
Clear thoughts drown in cluttered minds (and desks) – keep it simple! It might seem impossible at 8pm at night to calm your thoughts when that opinion is due by 8am the next morning but a calm mind is conducive to productive thoughts.
Do what is right. Always.
Erase the bad, keep the good. Learn from your mistakes but don't dwell on them for too long. Being afraid to make mistakes often overrides the best intentions to excel.
Follies - there will be many! Laugh at yourself (never at others) and remember, to err is human!
Grab the bull by the horns and hang on!
Humour - keep that sense of humour. Laughter is universal.
Integrity - it is the basis of all that you will do. The respect of your clients, your partners and your peers is founded on this.
Justice - the reason you started this and the reason that you should continue.
Keep a note book. Write down core principles in your practice that you should never forget.
Listen to the advice and criticism of your seniors. You can only benefit from it.
Make friends with your support staff. It is amazing what you can learn from that secretary who has been there for 20 years.
Nice - just be nice, to your colleagues, your support staff and, especially, to court officials!
Objectivity - be objective. Your clients cannot benefit from advice that is based only on subjective opinions.
Persevere - it pays off in the end.
Quality over quantity. Repeat after me... Quality over quantity... Quality over quantity...
Respect your colleagues, your partners and your firm (and its principles). Your ability to adapt to your surroundings will show to your seniors that you have the potential to form an integral part of the firm.
Stay true to who you are, no matter who people say you must be. Be, however, open-minded to new thoughts and ideas.
Time management - try quickly to develop your own time management system of hourly, daily and weekly goals. Ensure that your goals tie in with your principal’s expectations.
Understand - make sure that you know what is expected of you before dealing with an instruction.
Versatility - you have been asked to deal with an aspect of the law that you are unfamiliar with. Don’t panic! Research! Use that brain!
Want to succeed, always. It shows in your work.
eXtend yourself. You will be surprised what you can achieve.
Years of experience before you begin to feel that you have a reasonable grasp of the law.
Zip it - office gossip is as destructive as a runaway veld fire!
Written by Natasha Wright – Senior Associate - Adams & Adams
Jenny Pienaar – Partner - Adams & Adams