It’s a given, of course, that the way to the top involves an attorney’s skill and expertise – his/her ability to discover his/her niche and shine. It doesn’t, however, rest on that alone, nor is it simple. From your choice of law school to the decisions you make along the way to your self-confidence, and ability to relate to diverse groups of people, the path to the top requires deliberate choices.
Getting into one of the top law schools is a significant advantage down the road and if you have the opportunity, seize it. If it’s out of range, however, don’t just settle for anything. Choose the best available and apply yourself. Your school name makes a difference, but it isn’t the center pillar.
Sure, you may discover that your strengths and bent are more fitted to a different area of practice once you get into your classes, but that’s ok. Goals can be adjusted and perfected, but without them, you are a ship without a rudder, entirely dependent on the waves.
Contrary to the opinion of many students, college is not a license to party – not if you want to succeed in the legal realm. From your first day in undergrad, focus, study hard and explore different legal areas. Learn a second language – it will give you an edge in our global economy.
Garner a Summer Associate Position With a Law Firm
Use every avenue of help your school offers, but don’t stop there. Work harder than your peers, apply on your own, explore connections among your network, build your network, learn how to pull off an interview – do everything you can to win a position and when you do, give it your all.
The Working World
Secure the Best Position
As a new graduate, your best opportunity is often with the firm who gave you a summer associate job, but sometimes the main lesson learned as a summer associate was the knowledge that it wasn’t the right practice area for you. Regardless, put thought and effort into finding the best position.
Develop and Hone the Essential Characteristics of a Successful Attorney
- Treat everyone – and we mean everyone – with kindness and respect.
Give more than you take. Value the person, rather than their position.
- Be trustworthy. Give your best. Hold to a high standard. Don’t cut corners.
- If you make a mistake, acknowledge it immediately and take responsibility for correcting it.
- Live and work by a code of honesty and integrity.
- Be committed to and enthusiastic about your work.
- Take care of yourself – it will enhance your ability to do excellent work.
Billable hours is the measuring stick that establishes your value to the firm. Not only because of the finances directly related to the billable hours – although that is significant – but also because of what it says about you. It reveals that:
- You are willing to work hard.
- You do excellent work – which, in turn, means assignments.
- Your work is trustworthy and has earned a reputation among your colleagues.
Set Short and Long-Term Goals
Balance decisions against those goals. Don’t decide just on the immediate results, but also on how it will affect the big picture.
From the neatness of your office and desk to your attire to your code of ethics, be professional. Keep your personal issues separate from your work. Keep your work relationships clean. Maintain professionalism in your social media. Anything less will come back to haunt your career.
Know When to Stay With the Firm and When to Move
Avoid strictly lateral moves. Each move on your resume should reveal at least one area that moves upward – such as a location geographically, increase in pay or status, more valued position, larger firm, etc. Use a reliable legal search and staffing firm to guide you and help you find an ideal match.
OnBoard Legal helps attorneys and legal professionals make the right career moves on their way to the top. Our legal search consultants are not only outstanding recruiters; they are experts in the legal industry. We understand the needs of both individual attorneys who are exploring career options and the law firms and companies that depend on top legal talent for their success. Our work is always discreet, confidential and highly effective. Contact OnBoard Legal today and let us assist you in a successful career.