Advertising
Advertising

7 Smart Ways To Begin A Brilliant Career In Law

7 Smart Ways To Begin A Brilliant Career In Law

Just like any other career, you know that success in the law field is going to require a lot of effort and dedication. Getting through law school will be rigorous, to say the least. There may be 7 years of study plus getting over the final hurdle of passing the bar exam to obtain your license. But the satisfaction in winning a case and helping people through the legal jungles to safety and compensation will be your main motivation, no doubt.

There will be other things that compensate for the long years of study and probably getting into debt to do so. The career prospects and salaries for law graduates from the top US law schools are excellent. Penn Law School and New York University School of Law graduates were starting at an average salary of $160,000 when working with a private firm.

It must be said though that the job market overall is tough, although the situation is improving. We know that about 70% of the 2014 law graduates were in full time employment but there were 10% who were unemployed or were on short-term contracts. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics states that average rate of growth projected for the years 2014-2024 is about 6% which is the average for all professions.

Here are 7 smart ways you should have on your to do list if you really want to get to the top and have a brilliant career in law.

1. Making sure you are the right fit

These are the qualities that any top lawyer needs to have although a lot depends on your specialist area. Top academic grades may impress but you need a lot of other skills to stay ahead. Overall however, you need to be able to show that you are able to speak persuasively and argue convincingly. Even if you do not have to appear in court, these skills will be enormously useful in other situations. You have to have analytical skills when confronted with masses of information and be able to draw logical conclusions.

Advertising

If you are at school, start to hone these skills. Volunteer to make presentations, join the debating clubs and get involved in mock trials.

2. Spot the opportunities

Keep up to date with what is happening in the law. Above all, look out for opportunities as laws and society change. This will provide you with a niche in which you can excel.

Look at the new areas opening up. Discrimination against workers, family law and protection of the environment are offering more opportunities than the more traditional legal categories. If one of these matches your passion and skills, you will go on to be a winner. If you are into technology, you could look at litigation support and e-discovery.

If you are considering a change in career and you have another degree or specialization, then this is also a great chance to become an expert. If you have a background in accounting, that can help you to specialize in tax law.

Broaden your horizons and look outside the law field so that your degree can be a fit for large companies who are seeking legal consultants. Banking and finance, professional counselling, journalism, and even teaching law are all areas that might interest you and provide an alternative career path.

Advertising

3. Use LinkedIn to build a great profile

LinkedIn is your way of being visible worldwide and a showcase for your skills, talents, and experience. In addition you are networking with the top influencers in your profession. There are many ways that you can build a great profile. Think of the header where a mere title of your job is not really enough. Use terms which are more descriptive like “Licensing and IP attorney experienced in growing video game space.”

The summary is even more important. You can add an infographic which shows off your achievements, skills, and work in progress. If you have a video of you giving a presentation include it. Law graduates who finish their summary with a CTA (Call To Action) asking interested parties to discuss opportunities in whatever areas they specialize in, are moving into the fast track.

Make sure you are using keywords that law firms are using when they are head hunting. After all, LinkedIn is also a search engine, so well worth doing some research on job descriptions and the career pages of the top law firms. Include these keywords in your profile, where possible. LinkedIn has 18,096 legal jobs listed in the Greater New York City Area at the time of writing. Now is the time to make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete!

4. Start networking early

Did you know that almost two thirds (64%) of law school graduates get their first job through networking? If you thought that means asking an influential member like a senior lawyer or law firm CEO for a job, you are wrong. It is all about seeking advice, making useful contacts and getting updates on what is happening on the law front.

Start with the people you know and then build on that, piece by piece. You are creating a jigsaw puzzle and each contact fits the other through a unique connection of acquaintances, same law school, similar background, hometown or interests in common. Don’t accept all comers but pick and choose those who may be potential clients or employers.

Advertising

Tell people on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn what you are working on at the moment. It may be about a blog you set up or a presentation or any other projects you are working on. A simple status update may lead to an email and then a phone call. A new contact might lead to a face-to-face meeting which could land you a job. This is the power of networking.

You have made a great start by keeping your ear to the ground. This will pay you handsome dividends later on.

5. Don’t despise internships

You want to find a well-paid job as soon as possible but don’t turn down the chance of a legal internship or volunteer experience which offers no salary at all or a nominal sum. But look at the experience you are getting which you can later turn into a very marketable skill. You might offer to work in a legal clinic or volunteer for a court or a local government office. The professional contacts and relationships you are building here will be priceless later on when asking for recommendations or simply gaining contacts.

6. Get tech savvy

If you want to get on the upper rung in becoming a lawyer, it is imperative that you are up to speed on the technological changes that have revolutionized the profession. Just think of electronic billing, legal research software, and databases to search, edit and archive documents. Courtrooms are using e-filing and counsel can access all these documents remotely.

The new Federal rules for civil procedures make it compulsory for all litigation documents to be stored electronically. Database technology ensures that legal professionals can retrieve and manage this information which is now known as EDD (electronic database discovery.)

Advertising

There is no shortcut – you cannot escape learning and using all this technology. Tech-savvy legal professionals are ahead of the game. Always mention these skills on your resume and profile.

7. Don’t forget your people skills

The law is written down but to apply it you need people skills. You need to be personable, a good communicator and negotiator. These people skills or soft skills are often most important in determining your success in any career. Being reliable, empathic and collaborative is more important than anything else. One survey shows that 23% of new hire failures was due to lack of emotional intelligence (EQ).

Now that you know what is involved in getting ahead in a law career, you can start making your to do list.

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

7 Things to Do in a Gossipy Work Environment 15 Signs Of Negative People 10 Reasons Why People Are Unmotivated (And Ways to Be Motivated) 10 Scientifically Proven Ways To Stay Happy All The Time Science Says Knitting Makes Humans Warmer And Happier, Mentally

Trending in Work

1 How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business 2 20 Inspiring Vision Statement Examples (2019 Updated) 3 How to Quit Your Unfulfilling Job and Lead Your Dream Career 4 8 Critical Skills for Workplace Success and Career Advancement 5 How to Find Work Motivation When You’re Unfulfilled at Work

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Published on March 20, 2019

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

What is a Mission Statement?

Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

“Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

“To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

Advertising

Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

  • What we do?
  • How we do it?
  • Whom do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing?

Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

After all, that did check off all the boxes:

What we do? Provide widgets.

How we do it? Online.

Who do we do it for? The consumer.

What value we bring? The best widgets.

The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

Compare that mission statement to this one:

“We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

What’s the difference?

Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

Advertising

You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

1. Keep It Brief

Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

2. Have a Purpose

A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

3. Include a “How”

Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

7. Think Long Term

A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

Advertising

8. Get Feedback

This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

Strategic Planning

A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

Measuring Performance

By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

Advertising

Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

To Hold Management Accountable

By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

To Serve as an Example

This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

Final Thoughts

Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

More Resources About Achieving Business Success

Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
[2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

Read Next