Round up

Some articles that I read this week:

  1. Make Legal Careers Great Again
  2. 15 Thoughts Every Young Professional Has on Sunday Night
  3. 10 Ways to Make the Most of Your 20s Professionally

Read anything interesting this week? Share in the comments!

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New Lawyer Series: Mentors, development and job searching

In their very first podcast, the crew over at Lawyerist.com interviewed Alan Dershowitz about his book “Letters to a Young Lawyer“. To be fair, I haven’t read the book, but it was an interesting interview and I thought there were some especially great points about mentors, including two red flags:

  1. Lawyers who advise you to do the same things they have done in their career.
  2. Lawyers who do things just because they have always done things, despite the lack of any evidence those things actually work.

These made me think of some especially important points for people who are either a) new lawyers currently looking for work and b) those who just completed the OCI process.

I cannot stress enough the importance of working for someone who believes in lawyer development. You will hear time and time again that, before you can think about honing your business development skills or becoming an expert in some field, you must first DO GOOD WORK. People have to be able to trust your judgment and know that when you give advice, you have done the due diligence and that the advice is based on sound legal principles.

You want to work for someone who will watch you fail (because you will), give you constructive feedback, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, let you try again.

What people don’t often talk about is how, as a new lawyer, you’re supposed to know whether you’re doing good work or not. In the case of trial lawyers, civil or otherwise, bad advocacy is a lot easier to spot than good advocacy. Good advocacy appears effortless and, well, it just makes sense: the logic of the argument is clear and advocate is persuasive. Even if you don’t agree with their position, you will understand their arguments and the facts that are important to the case. The important thing to take away from this is that this is a skill that can be taught and you should be looking to work for lawyers who are willing and able to teach you these things.

You can call them mentors or sponsors or whatever you like, but they serve the same purpose: they’re going to make sure that you’re getting the opportunities you need to develop your skills. Whether it’s drafting particular types of agreements or getting on your feet, you want to work for someone who will watch you fail (because you will), give you constructive feedback, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, let you try again. There are stories in every firm of partners or senior associates who ask for some vague thing, get back work product that they don’t like and then just assume that the junior lawyer is an idiot and vow never to work with them again. If you’re in a large firm, luckily there will likely be plenty of other people to work with, but if you’re in a small firm or working for a solo – you’re going to SOL real quick. Unfortunately, how to manage people, although perfectly teachable, is not something that is currently taught to lawyers.

At the end of the day, the partners are running a business and they can make whatever business decisions they want, including determining that you’re not a good fit for WHATEVER REASON and the best way to make sure you don’t end up in that position is to ask the right questions during the interview process (it really is true that the best defense is a good offense).

I’ll go into further details about what questions you should ask in my next post, but I’m sure there are some that I haven’t thought of, so tell me: what questions have you found to be effective at determining whether you’ll get the guidance and support you’ll need as a young lawyer? Do you worry that asking too many questions might take you out of the running?

Leave your answers and thoughts in the comments!

Don’t Be Afraid of Ambition

Reese Witherspoon recently gave a speech at the Glamour Women of the Year awards where she asked “Why is female ambition a trait that people are so afraid of?” In this video, I give my answer to that question and take it back to basics: what exactly are we talking about when we talk about ambition? Enjoy!

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

I don’t know about you, but I feel that I’ve spent far too long apologizing for being ambitious and being fearful of having people find out my goals/dreams/aspirations. Not because they were silly or bad or whatever, but because I thought maybe, just maybe, they were too big. I’m making a big effort this year to stop thinking that way and this is the beginning!

Do you have any tips or tricks for learning how to be direct and respectful?

The road to success is paved with good intentions

Many many people start out their careers thinking that they know everything that they need to know and, laid out before them is a clear straight path to “the top”. Of course, we know that that is never the case. There are the occasional stories of people who somehow tap into the zeitgeist and are catapulted above others, but I believe that anyone who is successful – in small ways and big – has these tools available to them and they learn how to use them to their highest ability:

PREPARATION: I won’t bore you with the 90/10 quote about preparation, but let’s all agree that it’s THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING that you can do to put yourself on the path to success. It can take many forms, but if you aren’t ready when opportunities come – not only will not be able to take advantage of them, it’s highly likely you won’t even recognize them as opportunities. PREPARE PREPARE PREPARE.

MOTIVATION: Everyone talks about how millenials are so special because they work purpose and not a paycheck. Let’s be very clear here: EVERYONE WORKS FOR A PURPOSE. Your purpose may be getting a check so that you can feed your family and keep a roof over their head, but that’s no less a purpose than is saving orphans. We are human. We need to know that things that we’re doing serve some sort of purpose. We don’t have to be motivated by the same things, but you need motivation to help you commit to the cause, to stay the course, to go where no man has ever gone before….or something like that.

DETERMINATION: Listen, you guys. Things aren’t always easy. More than likely, they’re going to seem infinitely more difficult when you are faced with options like A) picking up the slack for a team member who is not pulling their weight (for whatever reason) or B) dinner and a movie. This is not to say that there will always be such a stark contrast between what you want to do and what’s required, but don’t kid yourself into thinking that showing up and doing good work is enough. You need to want it. You have to want it. Whether it wants you back is a different story.

LUCK/CHANCE: There is, unfortunately, always some element of luck involved with success. You may have prepared for this from the day you were born and found your internal drive and powered through all the times you wanted to lay your head down on your desk and quit. But, sometimes, the universe just ain’t looking out for ya. It may be that there was some prodigy that’s eclipsed you in a short period of time, there may be a change in the market that makes your skills/knowledge obsolete, THERE ARE A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST. It is not, however, an excuse to hang your head and go home with your tail between your legs. If you have the drive and you’re determined to get ‘er done then you know what you start doing? You start preparing for some new path to success. You take all of the skills and knowledge and work ethic that you’ve spent time cultivating and you channel it into a new venture. None of us have a right to be successful at the thing that we want to be successful at. For instance, I would love to be a pop star on the same level as Beyoncé, Britney (pre-crazy) or Rihanna, but I can’t sing. Like not even a little bit. That life is not available to me. But, I can still belt it out in the car, in the shower and around the house and imagine that life while I’m preparing for something that I might actually be good at.

No one owes you anything. Full stop. This is why motivation and determination are really the most important tools you can develop. If you want it badly enough and you’re prepared to make some sacrifices and, well, just prepared generally, the opportunities will come your way because other people will notice that you’re a person who has the tools to be successful at anything. They’ll say, “you know, Jane is always so on top of things and she’s such a great person to have on my team, I want to make sure that she is in the best position to grab hold of the next rung on the ladder.” So on and so forth.

Are there any other tools that you think are essential to staying on the path to success?