What You Wish You Knew Before Starting Your Job in Legal

By Liz Maag posted 10-22-2020 17:19

  

Liz started her career in private practice with a focus on patent law.  She moved into corporate law with Honda Patents & Technologies North America, LLC. Liz found her next move as general counsel and privacy officer with a start up company. Currently, Liz is with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office as an Antitrust attorney. Throughout her 12 year career, Liz has been active in professional organizations and community involvement. Liz loves travelling and spending time with her two dogs.

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I’ll admit it’s not my first rodeo as far as having new experiences with technology in the legal profession.  The one thing that’s been a constant since I started practicing law in 2008, is that you have to be willing to learn new things, whether it is law related, people related or technology related – nothing stands still – things are always changing.  

First thing to think about or understand is the type of environment that you will be working in because this can help you identify the speed at which things may move.  Types of environments are: Law firms (large, medium, small, solo), a corporation (large, mid-sized, small, or solo legal department), or government. 

Next, what is it you are going to be doing? Is it transactional in nature (e.g., contracts, patent prosecution, estate planning), litigation related (civil/criminal or complex litigation) or a mix of the two? What systems do the various practices areas use? What systems are used organization wide?  Understanding these items will give you an idea of who you can turn to for help if you get stuck with something. 

Also, I think a question you need to ask yourself is what is your learning style.  Are you someone who needs to take a structured class or someone who is comfortable learning by doing.  Ideally, you would ask a lot of these questions before you decide to take a job but if you’ve already taken a position don’t feel that you cannot ask these questions.

For example, I started out doing patent prosecution at a mid-sized law firm.  Columbus is a satellite office of the main office.  As a result, we all had to use a VPN to get into the document management system, Worldox.  There wasn’t any “formal” training on Worldox but my paralegal showed me the basic things I needed to know to get around the system.   After that brief tutorial, I learned on my own by using Worldox. 

The other major system we used was CPI for patent docketing.  Attorneys, thankfully so, were not allowed to make changes to any records, but we still needed to understand the system to verify and check information – paralegals had the keys to CPI (write access).  Again, no formal training but the paralegal explained how she entered information in CPI.  Additionally, this position used a number of government websites provided by the USPTO for searching and looking up patent dockets (PAIR).  The government did provide some general guidelines on how to use but mostly I learned by doing. 

 The thing to remember about new challenges is that they are fun!  You should try to keep an open mind and be willing to learn new things – this will make the whole process more exciting and interesting.

 


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