Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 35

THE LEARNING CURVE
No, We Don't Always
Have Quick Answers
By Josephine Bahn
A
tticus Finch was the
reason I first decided to
become an attorney. He
embodied what it means
to be a lawyer - honest and fair,
possessing high moral standards,
a man of integrity, a lawyer who
believed everyone deserved
access to justice.
In reading To Kill a Mockingbird as a sophomore
in high school, I noted that while Atticus did
not always have the answers, he was willing to
find them. This is the kind of competence that
young lawyers should strive for during their
first few years of practice.
I've come to realize that each phase in an attorney's
career has a defining focus. The first two
years are spent drinking from the proverbial fire
hose, the next four on honing their practice,
and the following three years on setting the
stage to make partner or move into a management
role. A decade in practice later, and it's
about putting it all together.
For many new attorneys the first two years
of practice are incredibly challenging and
wrought with feelings of imposter syndrome,
ineptitude, and doubt that maybe law school
was not the best choice. This constant feeling
of anxiety and self-doubt can leave some attorneys
over-promising and under-delivering - a
classic way to make a boss distrust one's work
product. Taking a page from Atticus's book,
young lawyers should spend time strategizing
ways to be effective and convincing even
when they may not have the answer.
A lawyer is a counselor by trade who can but
does not have to specialize in one area of law.
Lawyers learn their practice area or specialty
over time, although it may seem like everyone
who graduates law school is immediately an
expert in their chosen area of law. The practice
of law is a long arc that takes many years to
refine and grow into.
The first time a client asked me to green light
an action letter, it happened very quickly. I am
a people pleaser who doesn't want to be
known as the reason the process stalled, so
I almost shouted yes. It was the first real case
I was assigned to lead, a straightforward and
routine matter, but there was a big holdup on
process. Unsure of what the process was
supposed to look like and if protocols were
being overlooked, I asked for more time for
internal discussions and to consider outcomes
if we pushed ahead. It was hard to swallow my
pride and tell the client that I just was not sure
if we could do it. I felt like I was letting the team
down by not having all the answers.
However, regardless of how many years we've
been in practice, we don't always have the
answers. Novel issues within the law come up
in my practice consistently, so I wouldn't be
honest or competent if I said yes to my clients
every time they asked for it. New lawyers will
be considered thoughtful and reputable if they
spend the extra time not only honing their
craft but also explaining to the client why they
need to take a pause.
Lawyers who say yes immediately because
they think their clients are not sophisticated
enough to wait are the ones with greater
issues. Take the time you need to tackle the
hard questions - yellow lights are just fine. We
are successful when our clients put their faith
and trust in us, and we lose when we fail to
see them as unwilling to wait to get the best
answer.
In trying to prove ourselves in the early years of
our practice, we may struggle between delivdcbar.org/for-lawyers/communities/podcasts
ering
immediately on what the client
asks for and taking a step back to research a
question, think about potential fallout from our
advice, or even ask a colleague for input. In
moments like this, we must walk around in
Atticus's shoes and realize that saying " let
me look into that for you " is better than
giving an answer that lacks fact and reasoning
behind it.
Josephine (Jo) Bahn is a senior attorney in
enforcement at the Federal Deposit Insurance
Corporation. Bahn also serves as the D.C. Bar
Under 36 Delegate to the ABA House of Delegates
and is the chair-elect of the ABA Young Lawyers
Division.
TUNE IN
to the D.C. Bar's
Communities
PODCAST NETWORK
Check out season two of our three
channels for insights from legal experts
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022
* WASHINGTON LAWYER 35
http://www.dcbar.org/for-lawyers/communities/podcasts

Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022

From Our President
Calendar of Events
Practice Management
Toward Well-Being
Protecting the Integrity of the Profession: A Conversation on Legal Ethics
How Far Should You Go? Frivolous Claims & Litigation Ethics
The Solo/Small Firm Life: Lean, Mean Business Machine
Upping Your Game With Professional Coaching
The Founding of the D.C. Bar
Taking the Stand
On Further Review
The Learning Curve
Member Spotlight
Worth Reading
Attorney Briefs
Speaking of Ethics
Disciplinary Summaries
ABA Delegate’s Corner
The Pro Bono Effect
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Intro
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - A
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - B
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 1
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 2
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 3
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 4
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 5
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Toward Well-Being
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Protecting the Integrity of the Profession: A Conversation on Legal Ethics
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 11
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 12
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 13
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 14
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 15
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - How Far Should You Go? Frivolous Claims & Litigation Ethics
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 17
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 18
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 19
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - The Solo/Small Firm Life: Lean, Mean Business Machine
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 21
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 22
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 23
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Upping Your Game With Professional Coaching
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 25
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 26
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 27
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - The Founding of the D.C. Bar
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 29
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Taking the Stand
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 31
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 32
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 33
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - The Learning Curve
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Member Spotlight
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 37
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 39
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 41
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 43
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - ABA Delegate’s Corner
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - The Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 47
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Cover4
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/januaryfebruary2022
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/januaryfebruary2022
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/januaryfebruary2022
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/novemberdecember2021
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/julyaugust2021
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/julyaugust2021
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/marchapril2021
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/marchapril2021
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/novemberdecember2020
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/novemberdecember2020
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/septemberoctober2020
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/julyaugust2020
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/june2020
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/may2020
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/march2020
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/january2020
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/november2019
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/october2019
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/september2019
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/julyaugust2019
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/june2019
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/may2019
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/april2019
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/march2019
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/january2019
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/november2018
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/november2018
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/november2018
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/august2018
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/august2018
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/June/July2018
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/april2018
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/March2018
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/February2018
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/january2018
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/december2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/November2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/september 2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/september 2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/august2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/july2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/June2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/may2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/april2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/march2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/february2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/january2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/december2016
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/november2016/
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/october2016
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/september2016
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com