YLS Newsletter

Kelly MulhollandLaura SchulzSLU Writing Corner: First Impressions Matter

by Kelly Mulholland and Laura Schulz, Assistant Professors of Legal Writing, Saint Louis University School of Law, St. Louis


I recently started in my first legal position and want to make a good first impression in my first months on the job.  This is so different from what I was used to as a law student.   Although the substance of the legal work is challenging, I also am finding that learning how to work in the legal environment is just as hard.  Any tips on what I should keep in mind as I try to impress my supervisor? 

Signed, First Impressions Matter

Dear First Impressions Matter,

Starting as a new attorney can be an overwhelming experience.  You still are learning the substance of the law and improving on your legal skills.  You also want to thrive in the legal workplace and to impress your boss.  We recommend you try the “4 B’s of Professionalism.”  First, “be thorough.”  Pay attention to details because failure to do so will impact your credibility.  For example, when possible, research until you have exhausted all avenues.  Check and double-check formatting to make sure you are following office or court rules, including local rules.  At this stage, moreover, don’t be afraid to over-prepare for a meeting with your supervisor.  Be able to articulate your thought process in detail.  Second, “be curious.”  Whether using correct grammar and punctuation, researching an issue, or taking a deposition, take on the intellectual challenge of being the best you can be.  You should ask a lot of questions, but you should first try to resolve those questions on your own by consulting practice guides, usage manuals, etc.  Third, “be proactive.”  Don’t wait to be told what to do.  Instead, suggest the next steps.  Give highlighted copies of cases to supervising attorneys when you turn in a memo.  Supervisors love new attorneys who take the “bull by the horns.”  Finally, “be professional at all times.”  Avoid office gossip because it will only distract you from your work.  Also take care when using email or social media.  What goes on the Internet stays on the Internet.  Present yourself as you want to be viewed—as a serious, capable attorney—and others will see you as the same. 


Kelly Mulholland and Laura Schulz, Assistant Professors of Legal Writing at Saint Louis University School of Law, are available to answer questions on research and writing that are relevant to new attorneys. Send questions to kmulhol2@slu.edu or schulzlk@slu.edu with YLS in the subject line.