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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 July 18, 2019

How to Sharpen Your Transferable Skills For a Swift Career Switch

How to Sharpen Your Transferable Skills For a Swift Career Switch

Most people grow up with dreams to go to college and graduate with high-paying job offers waiting for them the week after graduation. Others may favor non-traditional career paths. But the desire is the same: to find a job we love where compensation is commensurate with experience.

However, plans change. For instance, what started out as a dream to be a surgeon is cut short by a nasty injury and you’re debating how to transition into a new role. Or you might be facing being let go from your current employer and are anxious about “options out there.”

Whatever the case may be, switching careers can be intentional or unintentional. What matters is that you’re well-prepared, and the only way to do so is to learn new skills — hone in on your transferable skills.

Why Hone in on Your Transferable Skills?

There are several reasons you need to develop these skills if you want to go far in life and your career. In a nutshell, honing in your your transferable skills can lead to:

Better Job Offers

Continuous assessment and improvement of your skills widens the pool of job offers for you to make selections from. You’re no longer tethered to one industry as you’re able to lead your career by design, not by default.

People with transferable skills on a resume also open up opportunities for more potential employers.

Increase in Pay and More Responsibilities

You’ve heard the saying “with great power come great responsibility.” In your case, transferable skills make you more marketable to employers which could lead to pay raises.

Although this isn’t an automatic process– you have to be proactive about what you want in the marketplace, there is a chance that these pay raises will come with change in titles and roles.

A Shot at Entrepreneurship

Yes, changing career paths also includes the possibility of working for yourself. With these skills and work experience, you could live anywhere in the world and design a life and career you want.

We’ve talked about why you need to strengthen your transferable skills but what are some these skills, and how can you work on them?

13 Tips to Sharpen Your Transferable Skills

1. Update Your Resume

You might be surprised to know this but yes, updating your resume is a skill. The very first thing you should do while thinking about switching careers is to highlight attributes that make you very desirable candidate to employers.

Think about your volunteer experiences, freelance projects, and school projects. Although they might seem insignificant, they demonstrate your ability to deliver results that several companies are looking for.

While you might have held several positions since college, switching careers will require you to have a different type of resume.

There are three different types of resumes: functional, chronological, and a combination resume. However, if you are looking to switch careers you’ll want to have a functional resume. A functional resume is strengths-based that emphasizes skills that are transferable rather than a collection of dates and job titles.

2. Brush up on Your Communication Skills

Every attempt to get ahead in business and in life starts with the need to communicate effectively. Whether it is interpersonal, intercultural, or multi-generational, the ability to be seen and heard while respecting the boundaries of work relationship matters.

That’s why it’s one of the top skills you need to master. Strong communication skills allows you to effectively tailor your messages to specific audiences, which will make you a stronger asset to any organization.

To hone this skill:

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Pay attention to your listening skills. To communicate effectively, you need to first learn how to understand others.

Your ability to decode overt and implied messages, no matter how nuanced they are, is key to knowing how to foster deep relationships with others.

This article can also give you effective ways to enhance your communication skills:

How to Master Effective Communication Skills at Work and Home

3. Learn Technical (or Business) Writing

Another form of communication, writing, is a skill that can take you anywhere.

Companies communicate a lot through written memos, emails, newsletters, and other audio-visual means. But at the crux of this all is someone or some people who are tasked with translating the organization’s vision into statements anyone can understand.

To hone this skill:

Consider taking some free or paid classes online. You can accomplish this through several community colleges or online platforms like Lynda, Udemy or edX .

4. Practice Public Speaking and Presentation Skills

No matter how intelligent you are, no one will take you seriously if you’re unable to pull off a decent level of persuasion through presentation skills.

Most presentation can be done through either electronic devices or require your physical presence. Your chosen career may require you to be in front of several hundreds of people or you could be charged with developing materials for presentation.

To hone this skill:

Volunteer to lead projects that give you some responsibility for putting together presentations.

Also, try taking courses that will improve your public speaking skills if you feel lacking.

These tips on public speaking would be helpful too:

The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

5. Get Comfortable with Identifying Problems and Solutions

Every organization has got its problems no matter how greener the grass is on the other side.

How to hone this skill:

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Practice being resourceful.

Do you know where to find every company policy on the intranet in less than five minutes?

Think about a time you noticed some inefficiency at work and proposed a solution. Think about instances where you lent your voice to a cause which resulted in improved processes for your department.

No matter how small or inadequate you might feel, you’ve got some problem-solving skills that some organizations want.

If you look for more ways to improve your problem solving skills, take a look at this article:

6 Effective Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills

6. Recognize Your Team-Building Ability

Your ability to smoothly switch careers also depends on how well you can energize your team, especially if you’re aiming for a leadership role. Unfortunately, team-building usually isn’t something you learn on the job in most careers unless you hold a managerial position.

The good thing is that you possibly know one or two things about team-building. Think back to moments in college when you had group projects with colleagues and had to work with 3 to 4 other strangers for months. Were you able to get past your differences and disagreements to focus on the uniqueness of everyone at the table?

Making a career switch might require that you work with multidisciplinary teams whether you have a deep knowledge of what the other team does or not. I can easily think of doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and social workers working closely to achieve the goals in a patient’s care plan.

How to hone this skill:

Look for collaborative projects and team building activities that excite you and challenge yourself with new possibilities.

Try some of these tactics to keep your team motivated as well:

17 Proven Tactics for Motivating Employees and Building a Stronger Team

7. Lean into Your Leadership Skills

Although similar to the previous point, leadership skills extend far beyond building teams, managing time sheets and correcting behavior.

What I’m referring to here is your ability to develop a vision, believe in it, and inspire buy-in from everyone involved. This isn’t about knowing how to run a particular machine; it’s about how to lead a team of people with various backgrounds, experiences, and ideas of how things should be done.

How to hone this skill:

Although more complex than the rest, it all starts with an introspective look into your strengths and weaknesses. Then get a mentor or a coach who can bring out your leadership qualities so you can operate from a place of strength.

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Learn more about the effective leadership types here:

5 Types of Leadership that Help You Build a High Performance Team

8. Improve Your Analytical Skills

Are you good at taking large amount of data and interpreting them? Your skills could come in handy.

Organizations are looking for people to make sense of the data around them, explain how it affects profitability, and make projections based on it. Best of all? You don’t need to be an accountant to be analytical.

How to hone this skill:

Try taking data interpretation classes online or at a community college. Learning Microsoft Excel or Access is also a plus. If you’re ambitious enough, you could consider getting additional certifications to up the ante.

Take a look at these ways to help sharpen your analytical skills:

What Are Analytical Skills and How to Strengthen Them For Success

9. Don’t Discount Your Time Management and Prioritization Skills

How good are you when it comes to deciding how important tasks are, organizing schedules, and coordinating plans?

Should you be willing, there is a market waiting for you out there. Organizations and busy executives are always looking for talented individuals to outsource these tasks to.

How to hone this skill:

Although not everyone possesses secretarial superpowers, you can improve this skill by focusing on taking huge tasks and breaking them into smaller goals or steps in order to achieve a bigger goal.

Here, you can learn to prioritize to achieve more:

The Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life

10. Embrace Your Creative and Critical Thinking Side

Although it’s often believed that creativity is for the arts and right-brained people, I believe everyone is capable of being creative. In fact, most organizations recognize creativity as a vehicle that will drive successful inventions in the future.

How to hone this skill:

Try doing something fun. As simple as this sounds, you’d be surprised to learn how much. In fact, behavioral and learning scientist, Marily Oppezzo, says taking a walk might be all you need to get your creative juices flowing.[1]

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Anyone can be creative, you just need the right way to train your brain:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

11. Don’t Stop Learning Tech Knowledge and Skills

Being tech-savvy is a huge plus. If you have an affinity with computers, software applications and are abreast of technological improvements, it is a transferable skill that is worth highlighting.

You don’t have to be a young college graduate with silicon valley dreams to work

How to hone this skill:

All you need is the determination and the readiness to learn. This article will give you some ideas on the types of skills to learn:

How to Improve Your Computer Skills to Get Ahead in Your Career

12. Build Networks and Relationships

You aren’t free from networking. Not at the moment. With your goal to switch to a different career, your networking skills will come in handy.

Fortunately for you, networking doesn’t have to be so hard.

How to hone this skill:

Attend conferences and job fairs. Chances are you already have people in your network you can move you closer to your dream career.

To enhance your networking skills, take these steps:

How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life

Final Thoughts

Although there are several people with the same qualification and degree(s) you possess, what ultimately determines hireability comes down to a myriad of things such as culture fit, how teachable you are, cultural sensitivity, inter-generational awareness, and your ability to navigate uncertainty.

You have a chance to stand out by letting your dream companies know how these soft skills make you an invaluable asset, and how saying ‘YES’ to you is a win-win for both parties.

Happy career switching!

More Resources About Career Advancement

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

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