An Office of One’s Own: 5 Essentials for Your Home Away From Home

This article is by Ian Hu, claims prevention and practicePRO Counsel at LAWPRO.

New lawyers, welcome to the practice of law. You now have an office of your own. You’ll be spending many of your waking hours plying your trade in this new little corner of the world. Make it a comfortable and professional place to work. Be prepared for unexpected events. What should you keep in your office? How should you decorate it? Here are five items to help make your new office a home away from home:

Emergency set of work clothes. Presenting yourself professionally at all times, especially under stress, sends a positive message about your reliability. You’ll need a spare set of clothing (a full set, from undergarments to suit, and a pair of shoes too) if unexpected events happen while you’re at work. Spill coffee on your shirt or blouse? Pulled a late night and didn’t have time to change? Meeting a surprise client on casual Friday? No worries, you’ve got a backup. Change into your emergency set, get back to what you were doing, and no one is the wiser. (While we’re at it, a power cord for your cell phone can come in handy too.)

Healthy snacks. It’s the end of a busy day and you’ve been making decisions left and right. But your ability to make good decisions may deteriorate as you empty your decision-making reservoir. Refueling can help re-energize you. Pick snacks that will keep you fueled up longer but are low in calories. Avoid the “freshman 15” (the 1st-year lawyers version) by snacking healthy. Unsalted nuts, veggies, and dried fruits are a good bet. That said, a little dark chocolate doesn’t hurt.

Gym bag. Whether you de-stress by playing basketball, going to the driving range, or practising yoga, keep the essentials in a gym bag so you can escape when you need to for a break. Leave the office behind and immerse yourself in a different world. Join a gym or other avenue for a regular exercise routine. Enlist a workout buddy to go with – this can be a chance to network with that lawyer outside of your firm who can one day refer you cases! Return to work refreshed and ready to go. De-stressing is crucial to maintaining a good law practice – and remember to access the Member Assistance Program if you need some help.

Toiletries (and a small mirror). Sometimes, no matter what you do at home, you arrive at work and something’s amiss. A co-worker remarks that you look a little more disheveled than usual, and you have a client meeting in 10 minutes. Or you just finished lunch and it’s still there hanging between your teeth. Check yourself in the mirror and get cleaned up before you go into that court appearance or client meeting. Don’t limit yourself to spiffying up for just the biggest events. Maintain your professionalism and remember that your supervising lawyers should be treated like clients too, and you should look your best for them.

Office décor. You spend a lot of time at your office and it should make you feel comfortable and motivated, a home away from home. What says something about you and what you love to do, that fits in with your firm? Before you put that bobblehead on your desk, note how others decorate their offices. Some firms have strict policies regarding office décor. Others have no policy, leaving it up to your discretion. A mis-step can communicate the wrong message, but you can create a little interest and identity with the right choices. Is it a photo or poster of an activity or people you love? A beautiful or interesting painting? A chessboard to help you change gears? A plant to maintain your Zen? A nice lamp with a natural yellow light to replace that fluorescent office glow? Whatever you choose, it should be something that makes you feel comfortable in your new surroundings. And there’s always your degrees, nicely framed on the wall, especially if you expect clients to walk in to your office.

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