July 28, 2017
By Nick Anastasi
Submitting that first assignment is an intimidating experience; any lawyer who tells you otherwise is grossly misremembering the occasion. Those of us who gravitate towards the law tend to be Type A and risk-averse: so-called “perfectionists.” We have trouble submitting assignments before reviewing them at least a thousand times and convincing ourselves that they are incomplete, fraught with imaginary grammatical errors, or address the wrong issue entirely. The bad news is that these concerns may not disappear after the first, second or even tenth assignment. The good news is that we are not alone, and at Foley Hoag, associates and partners alike will tell you candidly about their own experiences growing into confident, competent attorneys.
At some point during our first or second week of the summer we had a meeting with the firm’s Executive Committee, a group of partners who collectively make decisions regarding the administration of the firm. As part of this meeting, each partner took a few minutes to impart some wisdom or advice. While all of the advice was thoughtful and well worth remembering, one partner’s reflection stood out and quelled my (somewhat irrational, but relatively typical) fear of submitting an assignment. He said, “there will come a point during this summer when you will turn in an assignment and think to yourself, ‘Well that’s it, they are going to realize that I am a fraud. I charmed my way through primary school, faked my way through secondary school, took gut courses in college, lucked into law school admission, and was offered this job through some clerical error.’” He continued: “It may happen in this first week, in the fifth week, or sometime during your first year working as an attorney, but it will happen. I’m here to tell you, you are not a fraud.” He wasn’t joking. As I gleaned from personal experience, as well as the experience of my fellow summer associates, we all felt like frauds at one point or another. But I think it speaks volumes about Foley Hoag that a partner would relay this message to put us all at ease, rather than make us live through it alone, assuming that no one else had ever felt the same way.
Of course we aren’t frauds; we made it this far largely on our own merit. But that doesn’t mean that every assignment we submit will be flawless; in fact, very few will be. This is where feedback comes into play as the most essential aspect of an attorney’s professional development. At Foley Hoag, it’s second nature. The feedback is thoughtful and thorough, highlighting your strengths and noting areas where you might improve. The practice of law is complex, but the constructive feedback offered at Foley Hoag affords us the opportunity to excel. The reality is we aren’t frauds, we are supposed to be here, and we’re all still practicing.