By Christian Denmon
Congratulations! Law school is in the rearview mirror, countless hours of studying for the BAR are over, the test results are in, and you’re ready to join your first law firm as a full fledged lawyer. It’s difficult enough to land a position in an already competitive field, but how does one stand out and gain the attention of the firm’s partners?
In order to grow and move up in the firm, as well as in the industry in general, a young lawyer needs to leave an impactful and lasting positive impression on the firm and it’s partners. Once you’re “tagged” as a rising talent in the firm, opportunities begin to manifest, networking becomes easier, and the path to making partner becomes clearer. Here are six great tips on how to set yourself up for success and make a great impression as a young lawyer.
Give, Give, Give
No, you don’t need to get coffee for the partners every morning for a month…that’s not the type of giving we are referring to. Rather, find ways to give your time to others in the firm. By showing that you are eager and willing to learn and help in any area of the firm, you’ll stand out as a team player and someone who is dependable when some extra manpower is necessary. Assisting on case prep or written statements as a new lawyer can open the door to a lawyer bringing you on their next case and subsequent ones to follow.
Offer Up Your Unique Skills
It’s safe to say that young lawyers are most often going to fall into the “millennial” age group. While you most likely don’t have the skills and experience to jump right into a case when you join the firm, there is one skill that you’ll almost certainly have a greater knowledge of than the rest of the firm. Online marketing, social media, review sites, and more are all areas that are vital to the success of a law firm in the 21st century, so offer up your knowledge to help develop the firm’s digital presence and generate new leads.
Set SMART Goals
The SMART acronym for goal setting stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Timed. A law firm is not going to expect you to be trial ready on your first day at the office. What they will expect, is someone who is ready to grow professionally in the legal field. By having concise goals in place for learning and development at the firm, you’ll display the eagerness and productivity that the firm desires in its new lawyers.
Be Willing to “Go the Distance”
As you begin to meet with potential clients and learn more about their legal troubles, it’s important to only take on cases that you’ll put your full-fledged effort into. These clients, regardless of what their case may be, are turning to you to help them understand the legalities of their case, as well as how to choose a lawyer to represent them. New lawyers that are fresh out of law school are often faced with a hefty student loan bill, which can lead them to go on a “money grab” and take any and every case they can get their hands on. Unless you’re certain that your knowledge and available time and effort are more than enough to handle the caseload, it’s best to pass on taking the case.
As a young lawyer, it’s important that each case you take on is going to be handled professionally and thoroughly, as if the reputation of the entire firm rests on your case. Partners will take note of your attentiveness to details, as well as your commitment to the case and the client.
Learn to Speak to Your Audience
In law school, would you send an email to the dean in the same tone that you’d use when emailing a classmate? The same principal applies once you’ve landed a position in a law firm. Understanding the corporate structure of the firm will help you craft communications that will fulfill the needs of the person you are reporting to. A senior partner may only want to hear or read key details of a case, while an associate level attorney may be looking for more thorough and well-detailed explanation. By learning how to tailor your communications throughout the firm, you’ll be known as the “new lawyer that we never have to ask for clarification,” and that’s a good thing!
Dress/Act/Speak for Success
Whether at the law firm’s office, the courthouse, or a meeting with a client, you’ll be expected (and judged) on your level of professionalism. From how you dress, to how you spend your day, to how you comb your hair, a new lawyer must surround themselves with an air of professional confidence that is right up there with the senior partners. Small things, like limiting the time spent browsing social media, addressing superiors properly, and prompt arrivals for meetings and hearings will all help you stand out as a young lawyer in a new firm.
As you get your feet wet in the legal industry, it’s important to always think about your professional demeanor and what sort of impression it will leave on those that you work with, network with, or even try a case against. While you are a part of a law firm, each lawyer also acts as an independent agent of the firm, so reputation is everything if you’d like to grow your book of clients. Follow these six tips on how to leave a lasting impression as you begin your career as a lawyer, and success should follow. Good luck!