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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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Last Updated on January 14, 2019

The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

Regardless of whether you hold an entry-level administration role or regularly travel to the ends of the Earth as a hot-shot senior executive, you can still find yourself harboring an emptiness… a feeling that something is missing. A popular assumption that experiencing job satisfaction and a successful career should be underpinned by a well-rounded suite of tangible benefits, no longer holds true for many of us.

We’d never deny health care benefits, appropriate and fair remuneration, bonuses and travel perks in a job package. However, even if served to us on a silver platter, those features can only satiate us to a certain point.

You might wonder what governs entrepreneurs and start-up business owners to quit their lucrative jobs, essentially look the gift horse in the mouth and kiss such benefits goodbye! There can be an irresistible pull to mastermind a business with products and/or services that serve the greater good of community wider than that constituting their daily existence.

Even with research showing entrepreneurship to pose greater threats to their mental and physical health, this unique breed of individuals choose to go against the grain in chasing their dreams of being their own boss. Why? Why would anyone risk this type of career suicide?

Whether you’re an employee, have recently taken the leap to being a business owner or been in business for a while, the commonality is a congenital condition we all share as human beings; to feel a sense of purpose, value and contribution to our community. Despite it being harder to find this for ourselves in today’s world, these approaches will help you achieve ultimate satisfaction through the twists, turns and joyrides that are essential features of shaping a successful career.

1. Search for Opportunities That Feed Your Passion, Not Temporary Excitement

Even though well-intended, the ‘feel good now’ compass that career coaches and consultants often recommend you use to create career satisfaction can actually do you more harm than good. Excitement is transient. It doesn’t last. Passion is the compass you need.

Passion and excitement are two different things. The resounding career legacy that still draws you to turn up on the job regardless of the sunshine or storm that awaits you…that’s passion. It’s like a mental and/or emotional itch you can’t shrug off. Staying attuned to that calling will breed success for you sooner or later. Patience is key.

You’re also likely to have more than one key passion. Beware of getting caught in the notion you have to find your one true purpose. In fact, run immediately from any coach who tells you there is only one. There isn’t.

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Your passion is a journey that can take multiple forms so forget thinking there is the single dream job out there that will give you satisfaction in every way you can imagine. It simply doesn’t exist.

Consider embracing different roles and projects to help you fuel your passion or fuel your pursuits in finding it. Job satisfaction and your career success will be all the more sweeter from a wider range of enriching experiences.

2. Don’t Position Job and Career Satisfaction Assessments as Pivotal Guides to Your Success

Despite their popular use for vocational guidance, assessment tools such as Gallup’s Clifton Strengths and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator have come under fire[1] as being limited to the amount of true value and direction they can offer partakers.[2] These and many other guidance assessment tools (e.g. VIA Character Strengths , DISC ) are self-report questionnaires that don’t have normative population data against which to compare your results.

Simply remember these tools help you develop a stronger sense of what you identify as strengths and weaknesses within yourself, not in comparison with other people. They will still add insight around what sorts of career opportunities, tasks and projects are going to light your fire, what ones are going to extinguish it and what will prod and keep the coals steadily smoldering.

3. Be Clear on Your Personal Values, Ethics and Principles and Choose Relationships That Support You Honoring Them

Teamwork, collaboration, open communication and trust are commonplace for any flourishing work environment. However, whether or not your personal values can be honored in your work can make or break your job satisfaction.

How committed do you want to be to an organization that expects an average of 10 unpaid overtime hours every week under the guise of ‘reasonable overtime’? Are you willing to accept their construing this expectation as ‘strong commitment’ at the expense of your partner and children waiting at home for you? What are your boundaries concerning when you clock on to their time and when you clock off to yours?

Being very in tune with what your personal values, principles and ethics are will bid you well in the job satisfaction stakes. Spending time to reflect on experiences and working relationships you’ve had – the good, the bad and the ugly – will help you make well-informed searches and grounded decisions that will propel your career success.

Finding and nurturing relationships with associates and colleagues who share similar values doesn’t just make your day-to-day pursuits more enjoyable. You become fortunate to work with like-minded people who will support, understand and appreciate you like a second family.

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Being able to honor your personal values in your work means you will still be able to sleep at night when you have to tread where others fear to, and make extremely difficult decisions others would never ever dream of having to make as you forge success in your career.

4. Be Clear on Your Own Definition of What Having a Successful Career Means for You

It’s tempting to get caught up in the ideals and projections of success expressed by those we love, admire and respect. Underneath, we all want on some level to belong to a successful club of some sort.

With research reporting how much money we feel we need to be truly happy,[3] many of us try to subscribe to the notion that having the car of our dreams or taking a European holiday annually will not bring us happiness. The truth, however, for many of us is these tangible rewards are congratulatory reminders of our persistent efforts to chase our career pursuits.

If those are things you aspire to, don’t let anyone steal your desire and want to feel deserving of these things, that those are some parameters by which you define your career success.

Despite consistently being the top revenue earner for two years running, you may not wish to become the sales manager. You may not wish to step out into running your own business even though you consistently excel as an employee, delighting clients and repeatedly receiving glowing testimonials.

Your definition of career success might be enjoying the predictability of a regular workplace routine. You get to leave – without feeling guilty – at the same time each day, love the people you work with and get to spend a good, uninterrupted amount of work-stress free quality time with your family. That picture is also blissful job satisfaction and complete career success.

5. Identify the Sorts of Challenges and Problems You Want to Learn to Overcome

Standard advice you might receive from a career coach might be to look for opportunities where you get to capitalize on exercising your strengths and career-related activities you enjoy.

However, to become a success at anything involves improvement. To excel at anything often involves stepping outside boundaries and comfort zones where others wouldn’t. This means dedicating focus and attention to things you’re not so good at and things you don’t like.

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Here’s where working with a coach can be particularly helpful. Map out the experiences that were unsavory in your working history. Were there challenges you opted out of, projects you failed at or toxic relationships that blasted your sense of purpose and self-worth into oblivion? It’s within these experiences that you might just find the most valuable lessons and guiding lights for your trajectory to achieve greater job satisfaction.

If your natural leadership style is to be a collaborator, finding opportunities that require you to apply a more dictatorial style might be needed. Discussing a secondment or short-term project where you get to develop and test your skills can be a step further in earning contention to lead a larger project down the track.

With several of the company’s boldest personality types penciled to roll out the operation, you’ll not only develop skills that earn your right to throw your hat in the ring; those key players have an opportunity to see your competence. You can then work on building relationships with those stakeholders before you need to hit the ground running should you win the lead.

Greater job satisfaction comes with planning and choosing the lessons and opportunities you want to learn, not desperately flailing, floundering and hoping for the best.

6. Keep Reviewing Your Goal Posts and Be Amenable to Change

The word ‘career’ is indicative of a longer-term pathway of change, growth and development. The journey is dynamic.

You will accumulate new skills and let those you no longer need, become rusty. Your intrigue will be stimulated by new experiences, knowledge and people you meet. Your thinking will continue to expand, not shrink. As a result, your goalposts are likely to change.

A major part of enjoying a successful career is not just setting goals effectively, but regularly reviewing and readjusting them where necessary. However, moving the posts or the target still needs to take place by applying the same processes by which you originally created them. The strength of your emotional connection to those revised goals needs to be the same, if not stronger.

By asking yourself the following questions, you can assure your developmental and growth trajectory is still on course:

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  • Would working toward these goals still allow me to honor my personal values, principles and ethics at the same capacity if not greater?
  • Do the activities I need to undertake to meet these goals honor my highest priorities?
  • Does this feel right for me and those who are nearest and dearest to me?
  • Is this aligned with my passion?
  • Is chasing this goal a right step for me to take now or is this a detour or distraction which could delay my greater plan?

Each of your career goals should have different review periods. Whatever you do, stick to the review schedule you set. It will not only keep you focused but help you see your progress (or lack thereof) and allow you to timely re-chart your course before you get too far down the track. You don’t want to waste time haphazardly heading in the wrong direction.

7. Be Prepared to Let Go

It can be unfathomable to us as to why others risk leaping into the unknown when everything truly appears fine and dandy in the career realm. The company provided stability, recognition, financial success, interesting projects and the promise of a promotion…what was wrong? Why now jump sideways to run a café or train in another field altogether?

Nothing may have been wrong at all. It was all going right. It was just the end of a chapter. Perhaps the yearning for the next step is actually taking a different trajectory entirely. You may want to simply experience a different rhythm. Perhaps it’s time to pursue a different passion.

If you have leaped from employee-land to freelancing or have made the reverse-jump (or you know someone who has), you will have quickly grown a different appreciation for pros and cons each work lifestyle brings. Working for yourself can bring the greater realization of your creativity, whether or not it can be monetized to earn you a living.

When your customers are buying you or a product you designed and fashioned, there is a direct level of appreciation and gratitude that can elevate your confidence in the way you have never experienced as an employee, regardless of your rank.

Similarly, there are times where we need to recognize our business ventures were adventures, not long-term life-changing empires. There are times we need to recognize that time is what provides the clearest limitation of how long we persist for in such pursuits.

We have to recognize the absence of enough financial, mental, emotional and physical breadcrumbs that tells us we’re no longer meant to push in that direction. At least, not for the present time.

The Bottom Line

Above all, keep the momentum. As long as you remain committed to pursuing work opportunities that allow you to honor your highest priorities, the truth of who you are and what you stand for, achieving ultimate job satisfaction and a successful career will never be too far away.

More Resources to Help Advance Your Career

Featured photo credit: Csaba Balazs via unsplash.com

Reference

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