Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Surviving Your First Week In the Law: Start Strong to Last Long

woman at deskA strong start is key to long-term success in any endeavor.

It’s true for soccer (“Coach Stresses Importance of Strong Start in Gold Cup”) and fiction writing (“The Importance of Good Beginnings”). And it’s also true for your first day in Torts 100 or your first day as a new associate.

Opening moments set the tone for everything that follows.

Along those lines, Shawn P. O’Connor – a Harvard law grad who counsels law school applicants – wrote this great piece in U.S. News & World Report. It’s about surviving the first week of law school, but his advice translates to any new undertaking.

6 Tips For Bursting Out of the Blocks

Following are O’Connor’s pointers:

  • Prepared to be bewildered. Go in realizing this is a strange new world. It will be vastly different from all prior experiences. Open your mind. Be ready for new tasks and assignments.
  • Focus on the present. “Do not let yourself become overwhelmed and distracted by far-off deadlines. Do not even think about your exams. You need to remain motivated and concentrate your efforts on the readings for the week.”
  • Wait to form a study group. Find your personal balance first. Get your individual rhythm and pacing locked down.
  • Make friends. Once you’ve got your feet on the ground, reach out to others. This is a social situation, after all, so be social. Attract friends by being nice, humble and approachable.
  • Don’t fear the teacher. This goes for other authority figures as well. Don’t worry about giving a wrong answer or messing up. They’ve seen it before and won’t be shocked. Use missteps as learning opportunities.
  • Take notes. Read and write. Pace yourself. Keep reading and writing.

Powerful Start, Powerful Presence

Sarah Cornally does leadership training in the Netherlands. She says the human spirit has a deep desire for greatness, which when harness by an organization can produce extraordinary results.

A first step to getting there: starting strong.

“When people join a system (a family, a group, a function or an organisation), that system has an established purpose,” she writes. “The people who join need to have something of value to that system’s purpose or else they don’t find their place. A good beginning depends on having a clear sense of belonging from the beginning. It is important to have this sense of belonging from within yourself and also from those who are already part of the system. When the existing members welcome you, it feels like you have your own place within the system. This is why it is helpful to be introduced when you start a new role, so that existing members can learn who you are and what assets you have to bring to the situation, and you can learn the same about them. Each person can then see how everyone else adds value.”

Whether it’s kicking a soccer ball, penning a novel or studying for the bar exam, begin strong. Good things will follow.


Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man has practiced in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact him at






About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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