Young lawyers who have just graduated from law school are likely to get perplexed regarding the career path they need to choose, as there are endless opportunities available to lawyers in the current era. It certainly takes some time and effort learning different areas of the law and the best way to familiarize yourself is by interacting with practicing attorneys, improving your knowledge, and finally, making your own informed choice. Some qualities that allow you to evolve in a competitive field include commitment, intelligence, persistence, and strong analytical skills.
Self-assessment is the key to career planning and each person should evaluate what he/she wants to do as a lawyer. Here are a few points that could help young lawyers start with their career development-
- Think and draft goals you want to achieve: You can write down about 15 things you would want to accomplish and then decide upon the three goals you would like to achieve in the next five years. If you work passionately and focus on your strength alongside the goals and priorities that you have already set for yourself, you can definitely attain success.
- Believe in yourself and your abilities: Once you have listed out your goals, it is time to think about what you can do. Believe in your capabilities and have passion towards your career. To achieve your goals, always keep your resume updated. You need to be involved in passive job search because it involves continuous investigation of the type of work available and practice areas. You may find an opportunity that can help you achieve or move closer to your goals.
- Unlock your natural potential: Take some time and try to identify things at which you are naturally good at. You could be a great writer, advisor, negotiator or a project manager. It is important to build your career over the skills that you are naturally good at.
- Professional and personal network building: Networking among your peers and other people in your profession is an important part of building your career. Develop strong relationships with seniors who can teach the skills you require for continuing to grow as an expert. It is necessary to stay in touch and create a wonderful network of colleagues who will advise and guide you as well. The network should include your law school or college classmates, members of local bar associations or any social organizations.
- Seek mentors: Look for and identify senior attorneys with specific skills you would like to gain, as they can hone your technical skills. Most lawyers will have their own specific method of managing cases and having multiple mentors will help you build a strong career base. Learning is a never-ending process and it is important for you as a young lawyer to be in touch with your practice area and attend continuing legal education (CLE) and other legal workshops regularly. Participating in such events not only builds your network but also expands your pool of mentors who can provide career advice to you.
- Accepting failures positively: You will have to embrace failures initially as it is considered the path to success. It is very important to keep away the fear of failure from demotivating you during the initial years.
Once you find a job, you may feel relieved, but remember this is just the first step in your career path. It is the time to ponder over the next steps to be considered in order to advance your career. Here are 8 career tips that can be helpful on the job:
- Strategy development for the advancement of your career: You should follow an active approach and consider the skills that will be expected from attorneys of your experience level and develop a plan to meet or exceed the expectations.
- Visibility within and outside your organization: Try and participate in every event or activities taking place at your organization. Also, seek opportunities to work along with a wide range of attorneys. It is important to join and become an active member of bar associations and other organizations of your interest. You can engage in activities such as publishing articles, speaking on panels, attending, and participating at conferences.
- Develop a network: It is worthwhile to maintain professional relationships both within and outside your organization. You need to develop a network of mentors. Establish a good professional network, which will definitely help you get clients and promote your legal skills.
- Build a good reputation for yourself: It is always impressive to be known for expertise and quality work. This can be achieved by being a problem-solver and providing excellent service to clients. In addition to the ethical duties entailed by the bar association, you need to take responsibility for the cases you represent and be honest to your client.
- Be a team player: For beginners, working as a team is more ideal as it allows learning new ideas and observing how issues are tackled. Always cooperate and collaborate while working as a team, as this plays an important role in having a successful career.
- Positive attitude: Inculcate a positive attitude by being enthusiastic and engaged in your work. Enthusiasm and a positive attitude always go hand in hand and are quite necessary to handle the toughest
- Perseverance: Hard work is undoubtedly the hallmark of success and work is always enjoyable if you are in the right job. It is appreciable if you demonstrate your determination to achieve success. You need to have a positive spirit and perseverance that will help you perform even the most difficult tasks with a favorable outcome. Also, it does demonstrate your genuine interest in clients and your law firm.
- Open yourself to constant changes: The legal industry is ever-changing and you should be able to keep up the pace and remain efficient in serving your clients well. It becomes challenging when you have been into legal practice for some time as it you will need to stay abreast with the things going on in your area of practice.
How can a junior lawyer develop the skills needed to succeed?
A junior lawyer should work towards building both “hard skills” as well as “soft skills”. Hard skills include substantial legal knowledge, negotiating and drafting skills and can be developed by asking questions and gaining as much knowledge as possible. Soft skills include professional practice and management skills, which develop by being more proactive and reliable. Reliability of a person is often more significant than even the years of experience and substantive knowledge. In addition, getting involved in bar associations and similar organizations helps enhance professional practice in the early years.
One of the key characteristics junior lawyers should be able to develop is the ability to “take ownership” of every matter and treating it as one’s own problem. It is important to develop the qualities of effective problem solving and effective communication. Communication skills, both written and verbal are as important as core legal knowledge. You will need to communicate your views concisely and also develop sharp listening skills to have fruitful conversations. Lastly, another skill that junior lawyers need to inculcate early in their careers is client development, the cornerstone of which is a good understanding of the client’s objectives and providing excellent client service.
A meaningful takeaway point is that it takes time for planning and moving ahead in your career path and unexpected transitions may delay or even change your career plan. Therefore, you need to patient and flexible enough throughout your career journey.
About the author:
Gregory A. Cade, the author is the founder and principal attorney at Environmental Litigation Group, P.C. He is an Industrial Hygiene degree holder with a solid science background. He is a member of the Birmingham Bar Association, Alabama State Bar, and the District of Columbia Bar. He has represented thousands of individual as well as community claims all over the Southeast for the past two decades. He helps the victims of occupational/environmental asbestos exposure and other known toxins by representing their case and fighting for their claim. His areas of practice include environmental/occupational law as well as Mesothelioma and Asbestos.