The Most Difficult Part Is Getting Started.
This Month, Associate Attorney Arthur Byrd, fresh off of several big Courtroom wins, gives us his thoughts on his chosen career, challenges, experience, and the value of determination.As a young attorney, the daily commute and work week comes with a gluttony of questions on a fairly regular basis. If I ever thought that 7 years of school would prepare me for everything I would encounter each day in this job, I was sadly mistaken. While I may have learned the law over the course of my schooling, this job comes with a list of requirements far greater than simply reciting statutes and case law.
I don’t say these things to give the impression that being an attorney is an overwhelmingly burdensome job, or to insinuate that my chosen career path is of elevated importance as compared to others. In fact, the alternative may be true. I feel very fortunate and very blessed to do this job. My work day comes with scenarios and dilemmas that are entirely different than the day before. It is anything but the daily grind. In short, this job is exciting, which is something I am well aware that not everyone can say.
The byproduct, of course, is that aforementioned gluttony of questions. What’s the appropriate motion or petition to file? When do I get a raise? And one of my favorites the day before my first trial…how exactly do I conduct a trial? (We won, and yes I’m slightly bragging). But the most difficult and most frequently recurring question, in some shape or form, is how do I stand in the same courtroom as the Perry Mason standing next to me? How do I gain equal footing with a woman or man that dwarfs me in experience? It is without a doubt the question that has caused me to lose the most sleep at night.
This is a competitive profession full of competitive individuals, and I am no different. I am a less than adequate golfer, but I will play until my hands bleed. And it’s not for love of the game, by any stretch. It’s because there’s no way I can’t do something that so many others can. If I’m lucky enough on a given weekend to round up enough teams to play corn-hole in the backyard, it may as well be scheduled as a 6 hour event, because win or lose, I always want to play one more game. I can spend an entire evening reading motivational quotes, or spend the morning watching fight scenes from Rocky, and somehow feel like it was time well spent. I, quite simply, have a thirst for competition, as I’m sure all lawyers do (although I won’t pigeon-hole anyone and say the profession as a whole has as many screws loose as me). I am either very exciting or very irritating to live with, depending on your point of view.
But neither law school nor watching Rocky Balboa fight Ivan Drago provide me with the experience to match attorney’s practicing 10, 20, or 30 years. It is a shortcoming that can only be changed with time, and the only way to get through time is to wait for it. It is not, however, a shortcoming that cannot be offset. As previously stated, I am not yet arrogant enough to believe that this job or the degree on my wall came with entitlement. The secret to success is no different than that of a businessman, an athlete, or a contractor. To excel, I have to work. If I want to catch up to the more experienced, I have to work harder than the more experienced. It’s not a burden unique to me. It’s life. The same holds true for anyone with a real desire to be successful.
I have recognized and come to terms with the fact that if I want to succeed at this competition, I have to put in more preparation than the person sitting across from me. There may come a day when that requirement is unnecessary, but I hope it’s a mindset that never goes away. For now, as each day comes, as each hearing comes, and as each case comes, I will continue to forego hours of sleep for each. Because after all, the most difficult part of any job is getting started.