Dear New Lawyer,
I was there 37 years ago. I didn’t know where to start and what to do. Here’s what I wished my future self could have shared with me during those first few years of practice.
In the legal world, young lawyers often find themselves caught in a whirlwind of expectations, struggling to find their footing. The pressure to perform is immense, and the path forward can seem convoluted.
It’s OK. It’s normal to feel this way.
We’ve all been there, fresh out of law school, overwhelmed by the weight of our own potential. You’re not alone in feeling adrift. The problem is, many new lawyers are so focused on meeting others’ expectations that they lose sight of their own goals and aspirations. The result? Burnout, dissatisfaction, and a career that feels more like a chore than a choice.
The antidote to this disillusionment is simple, yet profound: intentional focus. By consciously deciding which aspects of your legal career to hone in on during your first 2-3 years, you’ll not only build a strong foundation but also chart a course that aligns with your passions.
Staying on course is key and here’s a three-step approach to cultivating focus and doing this in your early years of practice:
Self-assessment: Take a moment to reflect on your strengths, interests, and values. What drew you to law in the first place? Which areas of practice resonate with you most? By understanding your unique motivations, you’ll be better equipped to make informed decisions about your career trajectory.
Skills development: Now that you’ve identified your passions, it’s time to build a toolbox of skills that will serve you throughout your career. Pursue formal and informal continuing education opportunities (the best I’ve found are outside the law via YouTube, TED, Khan Academy, and Masterclass. Also seek out mentors (very important) to guide you along the way.
Networking: Forge connections with professionals in your chosen field. Attend conferences, join online communities, and participate in local bar association events. Networking is an investment in your future—one that will pay dividends in the form of job opportunities, referrals, and lasting friendships. Some of the best networking you can do is away from the law and in areas of business and yes, hobbies that are of interest to you.
Today, and not tomorrow, is the time to take control of your career and focus on what matters most to you. Reflect on your motivations, develop the skills you need, and build a network that will support your growth.
Remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Take that first step today and begin shaping the legal career you’ve always dreamed of.
Your biggest fan,
Future You 😄