Learning that the practice of law is not just about statutes and case law, and the other technical aspects of the legal system, is usually relegated to self-education and the toils of time. Particularly in the case of new associates, they are expected to become proficient in the practice of law, with little regard for either the business side of law or their personal career aspirations.
Thanks to Rachelle Canter of RJC Associates for some excellent insights on the latter. Although her article “First Steps” (free registration required) that appeared in The National Law Journal and on New York Lawyer is focused on new lawyers, I know many who have been practicing law for a number of years that could benefit from her pointers. She advises associates (and I would include junior partners, since there is no such thing as “tenure” any longer) to:
- Be responsible for building your own career (don’t depend on a mentor, supervisor, or anyone else);
- Identify what career satisfaction means to you (decide what you most enjoy doing, and work towards that);
- Develop a career plan (it doesn’t have to be more than a simple statement of what you want to do, and where you want to go with your career);
- Build your own brand (what you want others to think, when they think of you – e.g., hard worker, always meets deadlines, volunteers to help out, etc. etc.);
- Keep track of your accomplishments (start a “career journal” from day one, and maintain it weekly or monthly by writing down the good things you have done);
- Build tons of relationships (“with partners, associates, staff, mentors (remember it’s a two-way street), recruiters,” and maintain them, including with classmates);
- Communicate professionally (includes seeking clarification from a supervisor and asking how and how often he/she wants you to communicate, remembering also that your communications should be succinct); and
- Schedule a few minutes weekly to focus on your goals and brand.
I know I haven’t done justice to Rachelle’s article, so I strongly encourage those interested in bringing a focus to their career, whether you are a new associate or not, to read the whole article.