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A blog with tips and insights into the practice of law

Getting to know the law of the land

We’ve all been there. Those awkward few weeks at the start of a job when everything is new. Your favourite mug sits self-consciously amongst your colleagues’ drinking vessels, your desk is still barren, declaring your ‘novice’ status and you haven’t yet worked out the law of the land.

This can be a politically testing time for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, at the beginning, it’s common to find yourself without much work. This makes sense seeing as the hand-over process may not be fully complete, you’re not yet familiar with various processes and each task requires a background knowledge of facts, file locations and stakeholders that you haven’t been imbued with.

So what have you historically done?

Slink out early hoping your colleagues understand your premature absence is linked only to your nascent membership in their club, or absorb yourself in historic case notes so there’s no question as to your propensity towards hard work?

Consider also the social side of your new job. Sometimes there’s a delicate balance between who to introduce yourself to (and with what degree of formality), whether you mingle on the first few Friday nights, and how much information to relay about yourself and your old firm.

First impressions are indeed enduring, so questions like these can be more important than first thought. And the answers lie in your impression of the company culture.

Whether we realise it or not, people generally respond well to subtle forms of mimicry. This is true of body language during interviews, as much as it’s true with more complex behaviours. If those around you are in the office until late into the night, you may want to ensure they feel you’re a team player by staying later than you need to, and if the vibe is a particularly convivial one, playing up to this is definitely a good idea, even if it doesn’t necessarily match your preferred personal style. Because in the early stages, one of the most positive impressions you can make is that of being a piece in the greater puzzle. There’ll always be time to show the ways that you’re outstanding later on.