Most lawyers who took the bar in July were sworn in over the past couple of months, many more are graduating this month, and will take the bar soon. The odds are that many of these lawyers are going to end up in a solo or small practice, so I thought I would pass on some practical advice (the kind you don’t get much of in law school) that might help some young lawyers just starting out in the profession and looking to gain a foothold in the legal world.
I’m sure young lawyers are tired of hearing about this, often it seems to be the catchall answer to any of your problems: can’t find job, better network harder; don’t have enough clients, work on your networking skills; etc. There is some truth to the purported benefits of networking, but you’ve got to be smart about it. You know yourself, what you like and don’t like, use this to your advantage when it comes to networking. It doesn’t always have to be in the legal field. If you like sports, get involved with some local leagues, if community involvement inspires you, join some local civic groups. Take advantage of social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to find groups that mirror your interests. The point is this, find ways to let networking play to your strengths, trying to force yourself into situations that make you extremely uncomfortable isn’t going to be to your benefit nearly as much as getting involved in things that already interest yo u or you’re passionate about. Start where you are comfortable and grow from there.
Introduce yourself to the people that matter, and stay on their good side. This is a tip I got from a retired judge and it’s served me well. Lawyers and judges aren’t the only people who can help you in this business, get to know the support staff and it will make your life much easier. If you do extensive trial work and spend a lot of time in the courthouse, get to know the people in the clerk’s office. They make the courthouse run. If you spend a lot of time working with banks, get to know the administrative assistants. It applies to whatever field you practice in, find out who can make things happen, introduce yourself and stay on their good side.
Know what you don’t do
It seems to be getting harder and harder to have a general practice these days, there’s just too much law to keep up with. That’s why it’s more beneficial to hone a few areas to become your expertise. The good thing is the law is creeping its way into everything, so whatever your interests are, you can probably find a way to make it at least part of your practice. The trick is not to get caught taking on work that you don’t consistently do. It’s easier than you think and happens all the time. Usually when someone asks if you do a certain type of work (but you don’t), and you say yes because you’re chasing clients. Don’t do it. Tell those people that while that isn’t your area of the law you’ll be glad to try and point them to a lawyer who can help. Here’s an example, if you specialize in representing clients who are in the craft beer industry you probably don’t want to handle somebody’s murder charge. Bottom line is stick to what you know.