Last week, we lost Helen Thomas, a journalist who broke down barriers for women in journalism. To say she was a member of the White House Press corps is an understatement; The New York Times notes, she was regarded as the dean of the White House briefing room, the "unofficial but undisputed head of the press corps."
Thomas liked to be first. She was the first woman assigned by a news service to cover the White House, the first woman to be elected officer, and serve as president of the White House Correspondents' Association.
Covering eleven U.S. presidents' administrations, Helen Thomas saw many mistakes in the White House. When President Obama began his first term as President, she gave him five key lessons to learn from, CNN reports. Inspired by these lessons, we thought we'd craft five lessons from Helen Thomas for new attorneys.
1. Overcome Obstacles
Nothing is easy. There will be many obstacles along your career path. Whether it's passing the bar exam or finding a job, things may not always go your way. Keep your head up and continue pushing forward. If you want something, you need to keep at it.
2. Ask the Hard Questions
There may be moments in your career when you don't want to disrupt the order of things and just go with the flow, even when things may not seem right to you. Don't be afraid to ask the hard questions. As lawyers we have responsibilities -- legally and ethically -- to ourselves, our clients and our work.
3. Don't Talk Politics or Religion at Work
Unfortunately, much of Thomas' stellar career has been tarnished because of her comments made near the end of her career. It's Etiquette 101 not to talk politics or religion at work. As it did with Thomas, thoughtless comments can all but destroy a legacy.
4. Demand the Best From Those Around You
You are not an island; it takes a team of people to do what we do. If you have high expectations of yourself, demand the same from your team.
5. Always Say Thank You
Helen Thomas was known for closing every White House news conference with "Thank you, Mr. President." Remember that team you're working with? Don't forget to thank anyone that does anything for you. It's polite and makes people feel valued.
Starting out a new career as an attorney can be daunting, but it doesn't need to be. With your skills and your smarts, you'll go far -- Helen Thomas is proof of that. And for that, thank you, Helen Thomas.
Editor's Note July 26, 2013: To our readers who are concerned about this post. Please note that we do not hold Helen Thomas up as a picture of perfection. We do state that she was well known to have made comments that have tarnished her image and her legacy. That is one lesson we can learn from her, as well as the others listed above.
- The Real Helen Thomas (FindLaw's Legal Professional News)
- 3 Times You Can Fire An Employee For Off Duty Conduct (FindLaw's Free Enterprise)
- 3 Tips to Work With Legal Secretaries So They Don't Hate You (FindLaw's Greedy Associates Blog)