These days, the legal profession is more competitive than ever—especially for younger attorneys. Below are a couple of tips that younger attorneys should follow in order to ensure long term success in the legal profession.
Tip 1: Prove Yourself
Many young attorneys act like they have accomplished something important because they passed the bar and got licensed. While that may be true within your inner-circle, it is not true in the legal profession or at your firm. Every attorney has passed the bar, so while passing the bar is an educational accomplishment, it should not be viewed as a professional accomplishment. When you pass the bar, you are starting the race—you are not midway through it and you are not at the end. Act accordingly—work hard, listen to your supervisors, and prove yourself. The right attitude goes a long way in the early years of your career, and can make up for significant shortcomings in other areas.
Tip 2: Become an Expert
Just because you graduated law school does not mean you should stop studying and learning. Learning is a constant, on-going process in the legal profession, and there is no better way to ensure your success as an attorney than to become an expert in a niche area of practice. Like it or not, there are a lot of attorneys out there with a general understanding of legal issues. The best way to become invaluable to your firm and your clients is to become an expert in something, so become an expert in something. You may have to study on your own time, but in the end, it will be time well spent.
Tip 3: Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
As a new attorney, you will be thrown into situations that you are not entirely comfortable with—arguing an issue you are not intimately familiar with, dealing with a client you have never met, traveling to a place you have never been before, etc. Do not shy away from these situations, seek them out and embrace them—they will expand your horizons, provide you with invaluable experience, and make you more valuable to your employer. The worst thing you can do is avoid situations that put you outside of your comfort zone (unless you are asked to do something illegal or unethical!).
Tip 4: Be Creative
There is a common saying in the legal profession that you will hear countless times over the course of your career—“don’t recreate the wheel.” In limited circumstances, the saying has merit, but in most cases, it signifies laziness and should be disregarded. As an attorney, very few clients and situations that you encounter will be identical. You have clients with unique issues—give them unique solutions. Many people think that the legal profession quashes creativity—to the contrary, it can be an incredibly creative profession when done properly.
Tip 5: Think about Client Development
The majority of attorneys are in private practice, which requires them to develop and maintain clients to be successful. Unfortunately, law schools do not teach students about client development, and most young attorneys do not think about it until much later in their career. You need to start thinking about client development from day one. While the thought of client development may seem intimidating, all it really entails is meeting people, letting them know what you do, and making a good impression. In the old days, this required attorneys to get out and actually meet people, which can be both time-consuming and expensive. Fortunately, these days, with tools like Facebook and Legal Services Link, you can let people know what you do and quickly connect with them from your office or smartphone. Whatever tools you decide to use, take some time and prepare a client development plan. A little thought about client development in the early years of practice goes a long way to ensuring future financial success.
While these tips will not guarantee your long-term success in the legal profession, they are a good start, and if you follow them, your chances for success increase dramatically.
Matthew Horn, Esq. is the President and Co-Founder of Legal Services Link, a platform allowing those with legal needs and attorneys to quickly and easily connect via email. Matthew is a frequent speaker and author on various tech, business, and legal topics. He holds a BS in Accounting from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and a JD from The John Marshall Law School.