During summer vacation my daughter is working several afternoons a week in my Bryan-College Station criminal defense office solving problems. She’s a great help to me and my permanent staff.  She’s filing, packing, shredding, and doing all the other menial tasks the rest of us don’t have time for. In addition to giving her opportunity to earn some pocket money this summer, I’m hoping to teach her important aspects of being a valued member of a small business and solving problems. In fact, after reading an article in this month’s Texas Bar Journal by Christina D. Richardson about becoming a new law firm associate fresh from law school, I thought it would be fun to discuss some of the cross-over ideas applicable to both.

Self-sufficiency was the key. The sooner an employee (or new law firm associate) could become self-sufficient, the sooner they started adding value to their company and solving problems. Christina wrote about “making it your mission to be as self-reliant as possible.” Adding value to the firm meant helping it grow. And the cause-and-effect was obvious. The employee who helped the firm grow did not stay the “newbie” for very long. Soon enough, the value-adding associate was getting involved in management decisions, case evaluation, and even a profit-sharing part of the company.

Christina’s other ideas for becoming productive and profitable were solving problems without asking for help. I agree. Even though a newbie’s questions are legion, before asking for help determine what you could answer on your own . . . using your own resources and natural inquisitiveness to solve problems. Nothing was more appreciated than initiative and someone willing to solve a problem without involving the boss. That meant being mindful of the firm’s resources, teaching oneself how to use them, and then using them to advantage. “Hiring a young attorney was a large expense for a small firm . . . don’t add to that expense carelessly.” In other words, solve problems on your own . . . even if that meant making a mistake now and then. Her advice: “Be prepared, be brave, and just go.”

So I hope Lauren’s summer is both fun and educational. I know I enjoy having her around. If I can teach her the magic of self-sufficiency, then the summer will have been successful.


Stephen Gustitis is a criminal defense lawyer in Bryan-College Station. He is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is also a husband, father, and retired amateur bicycle racer.


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