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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 13, 2020

Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

Are you challenged at work? Do you regret career decisions? Are you happy? If the answer to the questions leads to a negative feeling, it is time to determine next steps.

Many people settle for a career that no longer brings satisfaction. Most will respond by stating, “I am surviving” if a colleague asks them “How’s work?”

Settling for a job to pay bills and maintain a lifestyle is stagnation. You can re-direct the journey of a career with confidence by taking control of future decisions. After all, you deserve to be live a happy life that will offer a work-life balance.

Let’s look at the reasons why you need a career change and how to choose a career for a more fulfilling life.

How to Know if You Need a Career Change?

The challenges of dissatisfaction in a career can have a negative impact on our mental health. As a result, our mental health can lead to the obvious appearance of stress, aging, weight gain and internal health issues.

You deserve a career that will fulfill the inner desire of true happiness. Here are common factors that it is time for you to change your career.

Physical Signs

Are you aging since you started your job? Do you have anxiety? What about work-related injuries?

It feels amazing to receive a pay cheque, but you deserve to work in an environment that brings out the best of you. If the work environment is hazardous, speak to your boss about alternative options.

In the case that colleagues or your boss take advantage of your kindness, feeling the anxiety of fear of losing your job because of a high-stress environment may not be right for you.

Mental Signs

One out of five Americans has mental health issues, according to Mental Health America.[1] In most cases, it is related to stress.

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I remember working at a job in a work environment where harassment was acceptable. I had to walk on eggshells to avoid crossing the line with colleagues. My friends started to notice the difference in that I seemed out of character. It was then that I knew that changing a career to freelancing was the right decision.

Here is a list of mental signs of workplace unhappiness:

  • The tension in your neck
  • Difficulties with sleeping
  • Unable to concentrate
  • High anxiety
  • Depression

If you start to feel your self-esteem is diminishing, it is time to consider if working in a high-stress industry is for you. The truth is, this negative energy will be transferred to people in your life like friends and family.

Are You Sure You’re Not Changing for the Wrong Reason?

Most people that feel they need a career are frustrated with their situation at work. Do you really understand your current situation at work?

The reason it is important to think about the work situation is some people decide to change career for factors that are insignificant. Factors that can potentially change if the person works in a different department or new organization.

Here is a list of unimportant factors to think about before you decide to make the transition:

Desire for an Increase of Salary

The desire for a higher income can persuade some to believe they are in the wrong career. The issue with this is more money requires more time in the office or taking on several positions at a time.

At times, pursuing a high-income role can be the complete opposite of what one is expected. It is what happens when a colleague leaves a company to a new one and returns several years later.

Overnight Decision

Let’s face it. We make overnight decisions when stressed out or disappointed with situations at work. The problem with a quick decision is the negative and positive points is overlooked.

Rejected for a Promotion

I have heard stories of managers that applied ten times for a position throughout a 5-year period. Yes, it sounds to be a lengthy process, but at times, a promotion requires time. Avoid changing a career if you do not see the results of a promotion currently.

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Bored at Work

Think deeply about this point. If you work a job that is repetitive, it is normal to feel bored. You can spice it up by changing the appearance of your desk, socializing with new employees in a different department, joining a leadership committee at work or coming to work with enthusiasm. Sometimes, all it takes is you to change jobs into a fun situation.

A career change can take time, networking, education and the job search process can be a journey. Here is a list of things to consider before making a final decision:

  • How long have you worked in your career?
  • What is the problem at work? Do you work well with the team?
  • Do you receive recognition?
  • Can you consider working in a new department?

If after reviewing your work situation and none of the above recommendations can help, then it’s time to make a career change.

How a Career Change Will Change Your Life

I have a friend that works in the medical industry. She was once a nurse working directly with patients in one of the top hospitals in her area. After five years, she started to internalize the issues with her patients to the point where she felt depressed after work hours. It impacted her relationship with her family and she almost lost herself.

One day, she decided to wake up and take control of her destiny. She started applying for new medical jobs in the office. It meant working on medical documentation of patients which is not an ideal career based on what society expects a medical professional to perform. But she started to feel happier.

It is a classic example of a person that was negatively impacted by issues at work, stayed in the same industry but changed careers.

A career change can fulfill a lifelong dream, increase one’s self-esteem or revive the excitement for one’s work.

You know a career change can be the right decision to make if you experience one or all of these:

  • Working in a negative workplace: Don’t be discouraged. A negative workplace can be changed by working at a new organization.
  • Working with a difficult boss: The challenges of working with a difficult boss can be stressful. All it takes is communication. You can address the issue directly with a manager professionally and respectfully.
  • Feeling lost about what you do: Most people stay at their jobs and settle for mediocrity because of the fear of failure or the unknown. The rise to success often comes with working a tedious role or stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. If you fear the idea of being involved in activities that are new, remember that life is short. Mediocrity will only continue to make you feel as if life is passing you by.

How to Make a Career Change Successfully

The ultimate key to success is to go through a career transition step by step to avoid making the wrong decision.

1. Write a Career Plan

A career plan has a dead line for action steps that includes taking new courses, learning a new language, networking or improving issues at work.[2] A career plan should be kept in your wallet because it will motivate you to keep pursuing the role.

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You can learn how to set your career plan here.

2. Weigh Your Options

If you have a degree in Accounting, write down five positions in this industry of interest. The good news is diplomas and degrees can be used to a variety of roles to choose.

You don’t have to stick to what society holds a top job. In the end, choosing the right role that will make you happy is priceless.

3. Be Real About the Pros and Cons

It is time to be honest about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the job market that are impacting the current situation.

A SWOT Analysis of a career can include:[3]

  • Economic factors
  • Direct competition: Is this role in high demand?
  • Location: Do you need to move? If the goal is to work in tech and living in Cincinnati is not realistic, consider moving to San Francisco.
  • Achievements: To stand out from the competition achievements like awards, committee involvement, freelance work or volunteering is a recipe for success.
  • Education: Do you need to go back to school? Education can be expensive. However, online courses, webinars or self-study is an option.

    A career blueprint is the first step to creating realistic goals. A person without goals will be disappointed without a clear direction of what to do next.

    4. Find a Mentor or Career Coach

    A mentor or a career coach that works in the desired position can share the pros and cons of working in the role. Here is a list of questions to ask a mentor:

    • What is required to be successful in the role?
    • What certification or educational development is needed?
    • What are the challenges of the role?
    • Is there potential for career advancement?

    A chat at a coffee shop with a mentor can change your mind about the desire for a career change.

    Find out how to pick a good mentor for yourself in this article: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

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    5. Research Salary

    Some people decide to change careers for a role that pays less or perks like benefits to make up for the difference in previous to potential salary.

    It can reveal the cities throughout the country that offer a higher salary for those that have an interest in relocating for work.

    6. Be Realistic

    If your goal is to move up into an executive position, it is time to be honest about where you are in your career.

    For example, if boardroom meetings, high-level discussions about financials or attending weekly networking events are boring, an executive role may not be right for you. If you are an introvert and working with people every day is nerve wrecking, you need to reconsider a job in sales.

    Ask yourself if you can work in this role for the next five years of your life. If other benefits that come with the role are enticing, other roles are fit that will make you happy.

    7. Volunteer First

    A person that wants to become a manager should take on volunteer opportunities to experience the reality of the position.

    Becoming a committee member to pursue a presidential opportunity can provide a perspective on leadership, maintaining a budget and public speaking.

    Volunteer in a role until you are certain that it is the right opportunity.

    8. Prepare Your Career Tools

    I recommend asking a boss, colleague or mentor for career tools. If you prefer professional assistance, you can seek out resume writing assistance. Here is a list of things to consider when preparing career tools:

    • Online search: Search your name online to see what shows up. I recommend searching images that are on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or other sites on a personal account. The last thing you want to realize is the job search is unsuccessful because there is unprofessional content you posted online.
    • Be LinkedIn ready: Recruiters conduct a LinkedIn search to see if the work experience is the same on a resume. Remember to change the wording on LinkedIn from the resume, or it will appear there was no effort put into creating the profile.
    • Portfolio: A portfolio of work is recommended for people that work in the arts, writing, graphic design and other fields. I recommend a portfolio online and one that is available in hand when attending job interviews or networking meetups.
    • Cover letter: A good cover writer will always impress your potential employers. Here’s how to write a killer cover letter that stands out from others.

    Bottom Line

    It takes time to move towards a new career. Pay attention to the physical and mental signs to maintain your health. You deserve to work in happiness and come home stress-free. If you avoid the common mistakes people make, you will find a job and discover the role in a career field that is the best fit with your skillsets.

    Master these action steps and changing career paths will be on your terms to make the best decision for your future.

    More About Career Change

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

    [1] Mental Health America: The State of Mental Health in America
    [2] MIT Global Education & Career Development: Make a Career Plan
    [3] Creately: Personal SWOT Analysis to Assess and Improve Yourself

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