In order to practice law successfully, it is agreed upon by most lawyers that one would need to demonstrate exceptional legal competence alongside with good client service and, most importantly, the ability to find and keep clients. It is the last component of this basic yet challenging recipe for success that turns out to be the most troublesome since there is no practice without people trusting you with their legal issues.
It is vital for a starting lawyer to acknowledge the business mindset needed in the path they have chosen. The sooner they admit that their hard work and skill set from law school will not be enough for their envisioned lawyer career, the sooner they can actively take steps to become proficient in what they are lacking. Law school is not easy, yet they did it, and with time, they can master the business side of law as well.
Developing Business and Management Skills
Perhaps the logical mind of any young lawyer would tell them to do that which they did most of the time when they failed to come up with a solution on their own, and that is to ask the more experienced lawyers for help. The reality, however, paints a very different visual. It is the case of many new lawyers to be offered minimal guidance from the firm. The billable time of their senior colleagues would be significantly reduced if they devoted that attention to the training of the new person in the office, not to mention the always underlying fear of having their hard-won clients be more interested in establishing a relationship with their protégé.
However, given the fact that these patterns have repeated themselves over a long period of time and brought no benefits to the collective effort of the associates, many law firms began systematically assisting their new hires with informed programs that would show them how to handle practical things such as payroll expenses, billable time and even time management in an attempt to give them all the necessary tools they would in approaching their work efficiently.
Experienced lawyers that have reached a point in their careers in which they feel they can help the ones just starting theirs also organize meetings and workshops independently of any law firm for those that do not have this option at their own offices, so it would always be a good idea to check for these meetings in your area if you feel you have some gaps in knowledge that you would like to fill.
Handling Debt with Optimism
A responsible new lawyer will most likely be worried about their career path from the very beginning because they are aware and have been aware since they got into law school that their education would be expensive. In the United States, the majority of young lawyers graduate with more than $100,000 in debt which, understandably, demands work choices that in a more favorable scenario they would not necessarily make. As such, not only the young lawyer in question but all their loved ones must be fully understanding of the fact that in the initial stages there will be many working hours and not so much money, which can be demoralizing. The good news is that as they gain more experience and seniority, they will be earning more and reach a place in which they will be able to afford thinking about a balance in their lives.
Protecting Your Reputation
The practice of law also means a late start for those interested in this career path, as opposed to other lines of work. For many young lawyers it is the case that just when their careers are about to take off, other major life milestones require their attention, such as marriage or buying a house, and so all of these might be perceived as distractions that take away from their hard work in building a name for themselves. It is a legitimate concern. Those with a young practice only have their reputation to vouch for anything, and, therefore, making deadlines, doing solid work and availability is that which keeps them afloat. A way to keep trying to reach more clients while delivering to those you already have would be to regularly write and post educational material inspired by your area of expertise on a quality website, thus, redirecting all sorts of interested eyes toward your services.
Broadening Your Acquaintances
By far the most difficult task for young lawyers is to attract and build professional relationships with new clients. Evidently, in large urban areas, the competition is more acute than in smaller communities, but the primary interest would be to establish connections with clients that will actually pay their bills. When your practice is young, everything will come second to finding your next client since doing that kind of work is necessary to keep the business moving. If there is one area in which you are considering investing money into, it would be expanding your relationship and keeping your social calendar busy.
It is important that you maintain good relationships with legal assistants and paralegals since they are usually in the know about all the things that the seniors have to confront, maybe even more, and also because most of the times have to do a lot of the work. These are valuable connections that you should make an effort to keep alive. The “I am the lawyer and I know better” mentality will not get you far. You should also understand the importance of networking with people that have nothing to do with your field since it will increase your chances of running into new potential clients. You should be at ease with talking about your work with anyone, acquaintances and friends, even family.