Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 41

THE LEARNING CURVE
Hitting Home Runs
in Legal Practice
By Josephine Bahn
T
here are few things I enjoy
more than nine innings on
a hot July day, probably
because I think baseball is
a lot like the law.
There are cases you grind out and win or lose
by a technicality, decision, or bad set of facts
- a " run. " Sometimes the rivalry with clients
or lawyers on the " other team " is akin to that
between Yankee and Red Sox fans. In law, good
teammates support one another by digging
deep into research or settling a hopeless case
à la " bunting the runner over, " even though it
might not be the easiest or most fun thing to
do. But perhaps the most striking similarity
between baseball and law is how the latter
develops leaders " on the field. "
A first-year ball player will almost always lack
patience at the plate. He'll override a sign from
the third base coach and swing at a pitch wildly
outside, even if he's down 0-2 in the count. A
veteran player rarely makes this mistake. The
same goes for young lawyers wanting to prove
themselves. Instead of just looking at the signal,
bunting the runner over, and helping them
score, they swing for a home run on the first
case. Young lawyers often fail to see the whole
field at the start of their career, but there are a
few simple ways they can contribute to their
team and one day rise to the level of captain.
First, young lawyers must learn the simple skills
needed to perform their job at the highest
level to hit a home run with the game on the
line. During my first year of practice after completing
a clerkship, I was always the first one in
the door and the last one to leave. I wanted the
big home run cases and thought they only
went to the folks who showed up with their
butts in seats. I constantly asked for more
complex assignments without first mastering
the simpler ones, a failing that would catch up
with me.
To be a true leader on a team and to get the
home run cases, you must knock the small asks
out of the park first. Be the person who your
manager looks to for research. Find and update
the model pleadings. Take on a presentation
for the management team, or even ask to staff
a big case as a second or third or fourth
attorney.
Understanding and mastering your practice
area will help you further develop the leadership
skills you'll need to be the person captaining
the next case. You can only be
successful and looked to as an expert in your
area if you develop the underlying skillset first.
Young lawyers must
learn the importance
of being patient at the
plate. Rarely does the
first-pitch idea regarding
a case turn out to be
home run worthy.
Additionally, it's important for young lawyers to
learn when to take the extra swings in the
batting cage and when to take a rest day.
Saying yes to every assignment, bar opportunity,
or leadership role will lead to burnout and
make you an ineffective leader. To be a leader
means learning to prioritize and value your
own time. While it may seem like a good thing
to say yes to every opportunity, at some point
you will fail to give your best effort on a
project, case, or leadership endeavor, and that
is when saying no will be more important than
saying yes.
I have spent the last year whittling down my
bar service commitments in anticipation of
becoming chair of the American Bar Association
Young Lawyers Division in 2022-23. To
be the best captain of that team, I'll need to be
more present, travel more, and think creatively.
I'll need to lead by example and show up for
our 100,000 young lawyer members, and I can
only do that if I carefully choose what I say
yes to.
Finally, young lawyers must learn the importance
of being patient at the plate. Rarely does
the first-pitch idea regarding a case turn out to
be home run worthy. Learning the pitfalls of
each case, assessing where the opposing
team's best arguments lie, and dodging a good
pitch or two will lead to the best outcome for
your client - if you just hang in there and wait
for the fastball over the middle.
You remain the captain of every case that gets
assigned to you. Remember that, as the leader,
you're trying to score a run for your client, and
they're depending on you for the win. New
opportunities to lead teams will only come if
you continue to learn, practice, and be patient
- and get a couple of wins along the way.
Josephine (Jo) Bahn is a senior attorney in
enforcement at the Federal Deposit Insurance
Corporation and also serves as the D.C. Bar's
Under 36 Delegate to the ABA House of Delegates.
Bahn begins her term as chair of the ABA Young
Lawyers Division in September 2022.
JULY/AUGUST 2021
* WASHINGTON LAWYER 41

Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Election Coverage
Practice Management
Toward Well-Being
A Conversation with Chad Sarchio feature
Ready for Reentry feature
LSC's Ron Flagg feature
Leadership Academy feature
DC Bar Annual Report
DC Bar Budget
Taking the Stand
On Further Review
The Learning Curve
ABA Delegate's Corner
Member Spotlight
Worth Reading
Attorney Briefs
Disciplinary Summaries
Speaking of Ethics
The Pro Bono Effect
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 1
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 2
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 3
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - Election Coverage
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - Toward Well-Being
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - A Conversation with Chad Sarchio feature
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 11
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 12
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 13
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - Ready for Reentry feature
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 15
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 16
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 17
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - LSC's Ron Flagg feature
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 19
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 20
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 21
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - Leadership Academy feature
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 23
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 24
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - DC Bar Annual Report
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 26
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 27
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 28
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 29
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 30
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 31
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Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 33
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 34
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 35
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 36
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - DC Bar Budget
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - Taking the Stand
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 39
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - The Learning Curve
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - ABA Delegate's Corner
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 43
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - Member Spotlight
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 45
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 47
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 50
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 52
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 53
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - The Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - 55
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2021 - Cover4
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