Most people in the workforce have heard the phrase “fake it ‘til you make it,” meaning even if you don’t know what you are doing in your job, just pretend until everything turns out right. However, from the beginning of my legal career, I have constantly heard the phrase “you don’t know, what you don’t know.” It was very odd to hear this at first because I did not know what it meant. But as I settled into my legal career, I slowly started to understand the meaning of this phrase.
So, what does the phrase, “you don’t know, what you don’t know” mean exactly? Quite simply it means ASK QUESTIONS. Asking important questions is a part of building a great work ethic at your job. Starting a new position can be quite intimidating, especially when meeting the demands of clients and the expectations of supervising attorneys. As a new lawyer, it is important to build a strong work ethic to meet the demands that your position requires. On the job, ‘faking it until you make it can” land a person into deep trouble with not only their clients, but also within their career. As a lawyer, it is important to make sure the client’s request is taken seriously and that the lawyer is doing everything possible to find a solution to the issue at hand. If a lawyer does not know the answer to a question, then that lawyer should research until they find the answer. By accepting what you don’t know, you are also looking out for the best interest of the client, because as a good lawyer you will find the answer that their client is seeking, by looking at all of the options available to you. Furthermore, you may be surprised to learn that a part of building a good work ethic may include asking for help from peers and coworkers as well. Your coworkers may have valuable information that can be put to use in assisting a client or figuring the answer to a very complex question. Just remember that as a lawyer it is important to ask key questions, whether it’s posed to the client or even to the supervising attorney about the review of a complex document.
More so, building a great work ethic also includes discipline. Being a lawyer requires a lot of discipline and without it, your work and effort may show very little results. Discipline builds great work ethic because it requires commitment. A lawyer who is committed to his or her work and obtaining the best possible outcome for their client has done so because they are dedicated to not only their work, but their clients best interests. Another way to build great work ethic is for a lawyer to have a sense of responsibility. A strong sense of responsibility maximizes the lawyer’s level of work and how hard he or she may work. For instance, when a lawyer is responsible, they take accountability for their work, they are punctual, and dedicated to not only their job performance, but to obtaining the best possible results. Lastly, integrity plays an important role throughout a lawyer’s career. Integrity not only helps maintains a lawyer’s relationship with their client, but it helps build stronger relationships with coworkers and their employers. Integrity builds great work ethic because clients and coworkers will trust in the lawyer’s advice, ability to be honest, and to give insightful feedback.
Finding ways to improve your work ethic is the only way to learn more about the important nuances of your job and to grow as a lawyer. This growth will not be in the way you think, but also in improving your work product. Work ethic is not just about putting in more hours or finishing your tasks quickly, but it’s also about learning and finding out more ways to get the right and the most effective result. As a lawyer, when improving your work ethic, asking the right questions is necessary for learning from past mistakes. When making a mistake in the midst of your duties (and there will be mistakes), by asking what you did wrong, you are preventing future mistakes from happening. If you’re ever wondering what you can do to improve your work ethic, remember to ask questions for problems that you can’t solve or when rectifying mistakes. Remember that your work ethic defines you and how seriously you take your duties. It’s better to acknowledge that “you don’t know, what you don’t know” than take a chance that could harm your client or even your career.