Just like every other area of life, the beginning of your legal career may have lasting effects on subsequent years in the legal profession. Whether these impacts are positive or negative will depend on the decisions you have made at the beginning of your career. While it may be true that it is never too late to reinvent yourself and make the best of your career, no matter how far you have gone, it is more important to lay a solid foundation as early as possible. No one prefers to find out late in their careers that they made the wrong decisions at the earlier stages of their careers.
Therefore, this article highlights different factors to be taken into consideration by young lawyers who are just starting in the legal industry, regardless of the jurisdiction they are choosing to practice.
IDENTIFYING YOUR LONG-TERM GOALS
There are many areas of practice in the legal profession, and lawyers are focused on actively practicing each, and ultimately, becoming an expert in their own industries. Some choose to focus on birth injury cases, while some opt for business or labor-related cases. Some of these areas are relatively new around the world, including blockchain technology, cryptocurrency, and even renewable energy. Areas like oil and gas, real estate, and capital markets have been in the legal profession for almost as long as they have existed. Most lawyers eventually specialize in these areas later in their careers, to be recognized as experts and secure a specific client base. For example, some lawyers are known for handling family matters (including divorce cases) and some are known for criminal defense. While it is not compulsory to be certain on the areas you eventually plan to specialize in (as you definitely will learn on the job), it is important to research different areas of the possible areas that you find appealing and make important choices based on your findings. These choices include selecting the right mentors and places to work.
SELECTING WHERE TO WORK
Many factors should be considered by new lawyers in selecting where to work. The most common factor is the money – the salary offered by the law firms for entry-level lawyers. While this is a very important factor to be considered (as it is important to earn a sustainable living), it is also important to consider other aspects of the firm. These aspects include the strong practice areas of the firm, the location of the firm, the work culture within the firm, and the rate of career development for young lawyers within the firm. All these factors are vital to a lawyer at the foundational stages of their career. A firm known for assigning tasks to its young lawyers for extra-long hours may not be the perfect fit for you due to personal reasons. Similarly, a firm that is not well equipped technologically, with the necessary software for lawyers, may also fail to attract you, due to your technological knowledge.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT MENTORS
Mentors are important in any sphere of life. They have experienced most of what you are about to experience, made the mistakes you are very likely to make if proper care is not taken, and achieved heights you still dream of getting to. These reasons practically sum up the importance of having a mentor. Choosing the right person as a mentor is however more important, particularly in the legal profession. While a person may have shiny achievements and accolades, it does not necessarily mean that they are the right fit for you. What is important in a mentor is having a person who understands your situation enough to give you the proper guidance when needed, and embodies traits you want to emulate. Having a few accolades to their name is also a good addition, as it signifies that the person knows what they are doing.
LEARNING AND MASTERING THE FUNDAMENTAL SKILLS
In any profession, you become better at what you do by continuously doing it. Mastery of a particular skill can only be achieved through practicing such skill constantly, putting hours upon hours of effort into your personal development. For lawyers, this is exactly the case. You may be a young talented lawyer, equipped with the relevant skills, however, you need to cultivate your talent to an extent where you have achieved mastery in them. Being intentional about such cultivation earlier in your legal career will be more than beneficial. Part of the skills necessary for lawyers is writing, communication, analysis, teamwork, and oral presentation.
CULTIVATING RELATIONSHIPS WITH COLLEAGUES AND POTENTIAL CLIENTS
The advantages of networking to any professional cannot be exhausted, mainly because they often happen unexpectedly. Keeping in touch with colleagues in the legal profession can come in handy at the most unexpected times. Bearing in mind that over the years, many lawyers specialize in different areas, getting referrals from your colleagues will mostly be a result of the professional relationships you have maintained over the years. Maintaining relationships with other professionals outside the law will also be of great benefit, as these persons are always potential clients.
In many countries, the law is regarded as a noble profession. Its nobility is however matched by its volatility sometimes. Slight mistakes and miscalculations may throw a young innocent lawyer off the course and may take a while for such a person to recover. While considering factors like which area is more suited to your taste, or which law makes the most money, it is important to take your own personal development seriously. You may work at the very best law firms, and be mentored by the very best lawyers, but at the end of the day, your capabilities are what make you the lawyer that you are.
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