October 2017

Letter from the Chair of the Forum

By Ashley Peterson

Attorney at Law

Dear Colleagues,

True success is overcoming the fear of being unsuccessful. Starting a new career in law may seem daunting. You’ve made it through years of schooling, passing the bar and finally achieving your goal of becoming a lawyer at long last. It’s a strange feeling to finally accomplish a goal that you’ve worked so long to attain because it feels like there is a void that must be filled. For most, finding a legal job is that next goal.

Finishing law school and entering the legal job market has many unknowns, but your success will be dependent upon the mindset and attitude that you put forth each day. The fear of failure can be crippling, but it’s the courage to keep trying in the face of that fear that will ultimately get you to where you want to be. As a young professional, you will face many challenges both in your professional and personal life. It is up to you to take charge of your career and persevere through difficult times because your strength of character will ultimately help you get to where you want to be.

When I left my last firm and contemplated the decision to go solo, I was plagued on a daily basis with negative thoughts like, “What if I can’t do it alone?” or “What if I can’t make enough money?” I really had to retrain my brain to think positive thoughts during those times when the fear of failure seemed so plausible. What helped me get through those negative thoughts was the faith I had in myself and my abilities as a lawyer, and the fact that even if I didn’t know how to do something, I was highly capable of finding an answer. As lawyers, we are trained to be problem solvers, and I believe that is one of our biggest strengths that gives us an advantage in life. We tackle problems by logically addressing the issue and analyzing our options to find the best solution.

Successful people know when to ask for help, leverage the strengths of others, and fully take advantage of the resources available to them. The best lawyers “know what they don’t know” so they can provide the best services to their clients, as laws are continuously changing and evolving. The one thing I’ve learned as a solo attorney is that if you don’t know the answer, it is okay to tell the client you will get back to them once you take the time to research the issue. They will appreciate your honesty and dedication to help them and won’t think less of you for doing so.

We are human. We all make mistakes, especially as new lawyers. It is important to use these mistakes as a learning opportunity for improvement in your path to success. If you make a mistake when doing a project for a client or one of your firm’s partners, own up to it, and offer to do everything in your power to fix it. In my experience, trying to cover up your mistake — or worse, blame someone else for your mistake — will only dig a deeper hole to have to climb out of. It’s in these moments of failure that you show your true character by having the courage to take ownership of the failure, acknowledge that you can fix it, and learn from that failure so you don’t make the same mistake twice. Only then can you truly become a successful attorney.