Young Lawyer Perspective – My First Year Practicing In Review

Young Lawyer Perspective - My First Year Practicing In ReviewThis week we welcome back guest writer Shirlene Brown to talk about her first year as a practicing lawyer!

That’s right, I have officially been a licensed attorney for over a year now! Holy cow! It honestly seems like a dream. I am an attorney at a small-medium law firm that specializes in personal injury. Although I have been a lawyer for just over a year, I actually started at the firm in my first year of law school as a law clerk/paralegal. Once I passed the bar and was sworn in, I became my firm’s youngest and least experienced lawyer. Thus, the baby attorney was born! Now that I have hit my first lawyer-versary (I’m coining the phrase), I have been reflecting back on the year and the experience and skills I have developed. Thus, here is my first year of practice in review.

Finally a Lawyer!

I passed the bar, made it through character and fitness, finished the MPRE and was sworn into the State of Michigan bar! I remember the overwhelming joy, anxiety, excitement, and relief I felt after I finally had my bar card and P# in hand. Becoming an attorney has been a dream of mine since I was in the sixth grade, so it is safe to say that I was beaming. I am also a first generation college student and lawyer. This means I am the only one in my immediate family (my sister is also a first generation college student) with a college degree. I also have no lawyers in my extended family, so I had many cheerleaders who were happy and excited for me. The beginning of my first year started out great!

A Global Pandemic

As I am sure you already know, 2020 has been plagued with a serious global pandemic. Specifically, this illness is a very contagious coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19. (For more detailed information, please check the CDC website and your state’s resources on COVID-19.) This is a tragedy that no one could have predicted. When I pictured my first year as an attorney, I would have never imagined that this would have happened. This was supposed to be a monumental year for my career, and I had grand plans for what the end of my first year would look like. I have adapted and accepted the reality of the situation and am very thankful for my health and the health of my loved ones.

Working From Home

Since there is a global pandemic, offices and courtrooms have closed. Thus, many attorneys are working remotely from home. While some states and businesses have opened up (and subsequently closed again), my office has been shut down, aside from a few support staff, to keep the firm running. If you had told me that I would be working from home for the majority of 2020, I would have laughed! Even in the midst of 2020, there was hope things would return to “normal,” and we would be back in the office before we knew it. Unfortunately, that is not reality. Although I am still at home, I have been extremely productive and have kept myself very busy! It has been nice to have limited interruptions, be in the comfort of my space, and with my husband and fur babies. Nonetheless, working from home during the majority of my first year will definitely be something to remember.

Eat, Sleep, Court

Since I have been with my firm since my 1L year and am generally a hard worker, I was assigned a lot of cases alongside a senior attorney. I did the majority of the organizing and managing of the cases and nearly all of the paperwork, discovery, motions, and summaries. Since it is just my first year, I did not have a lot of actual court experience. While I was involved in Mock Trial and Trial Advocacy in law school, it is different from the real deal. Thus, the intention was to have me shadow different court appearances, then attend them solo so that I could gain the experience and comfort. I was on track to handle a lot more in court when COVID struck. Now, due to logistics, the firm, and the virtual hearings, some of the shadowing came to a halt. Fortunately, I am still able to do some court appearances and feel very comfortable in the courtroom (albeit a virtual one). I have also settled a lot of cases and moved many cases forward throughout my first year. I am hoping that next year I will be ready to take on cases solo and feel like a polished professional.

Looking Forward to Furthering My Career

It is crazy to think that I have been practicing for an entire year! A little over a year ago, I was a young law grad stuck in the waiting period sweating over if I passed the bar. Now I have appeared in court numerous times, settled many different cases, and have assisted some wonderful clients. I am even scheduled to be co-chair for an upcoming trial early in the new year. Although I have spent most of my first year working at home due to the coronavirus, I feel very grateful and proud of the work, growth, and development that I have completed. Fortunately, with the vaccine in production and distribution, it has provided a lot of hope for the future to come. While I am still learning and honing in my skills, I feel like I am no longer a “baby attorney” and have transitioned into a “tot lawyer.” I am excited to see where my next year of practice will take me, and I wish you the best on your legal journey!


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About Shirlene Brown

Shirlene Armstrong is a first-generation student in her last year at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, Michigan. At Wayne, Shirlene has been involved with numerous organizations and clubs, including mock trial, LexisNexis, the Women's Law Caucus, and the Journal of Law and Society. Shirlene enjoys mentoring others and sharing what she has learned on her legal journey and continues to work hard in accomplishing her dreams.


  1. I love the phrase “tot lawyer” so much!

    I started practice during the pandemic as well. It really has been a difficult year, and nothing like what we all expected or hoped for.

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