Take the Training Wheels Off your Legal Career

Look mum - no hands!
Look mum – no hands!

It has occurred to me over the last little while that I’ve never really written a “manifesto” for this site.  Many writers (or bloggers – but I’m not a big fan of that term) produce for their audience a wonderful summary of their basic premise – the driving force behind their ideas, articles and site generally.

For a time I was content with my about page to do that.  Certainly it gives a summary of what this site is about, and what it’s not about.  But it is lacking in many respects, largely because if I put everything on the about page it would be too long.

For that reason what I wanted to do in this post is to set out the core reasons this site exists, who this site is for, and to give you a reason to stick around and go on this journey with me and the many others who read the site (or perhaps to never come back – I guess we’ll see).

At the end of this post I have two “calls to action” – one for people who aren’t yet subscribed, and one for people who are.  Make sure you check it out, and we can start to build up the Tips for Lawyers community a bit more every day.

Legal Practice is Awesome

Let’s start with a positive – I love working in the law.  Legal practice has been a fantastic career choice for me, and despite the occasional bouts of tedium, I have basically enjoyed every minute of it.  I love the thrust and parry of negotiations and deliberations.  I love being confronted with fact scenarios and dissecting them, organising them, reassembling them into their component pieces to bring a useful and beneficial piece of advice to a client.

I admit that I didn’t enjoy the study of law anywhere near as much as I enjoy legal practice.  I found studying law to be too abstract – too removed from real world problems for me to actually care about finding the answer.  Despite sometimes enjoying the intellectual exercise of the problems posed, I really found it difficult to care what happened to fictitious people in a fictitious scenario that I knew full well was designed to get me to write an essay on topic X, rather than actually produce anything that was helpful to anyone.

So if you are a law student or a new graduate lawyer can I encourage you with this: legal practice is far superior to legal study.  It is more fulfilling, more exciting, and more motivating by far.  If, like me, you find yourself occasionally wondering what the hell you are doing in the study of law, then fear not: it is a means to an end, and the end is worth working  for.

Whether you are a law student or a lawyer (attorney), then I hope that for all my occasional dead pan humour on this site, you find it generally encouraging and motivating.  Law is a great career provided you approach it with the right mindset and realistic expectations.

So Why Tips for Lawyers then?

I got married quite young, and as a result had to find a job pretty quickly after the Pastor said “I give you Mr and Mrs Hargreaves”.  I was fortunate to find a position as an outside clerk in a smaller law firm (around 13 people).  My illustrious duties included updating the loose-leaf filing on hard copy research material, reception duties during lunch breaks, filing court documents and running around the city doing “stuff”.

As well as keeping food on the table, this part time job offered me an invaluable insight into the operations of a law firm.  I was fortunate to work with wonderful people and bosses who were happy to discuss things with me, answer questions and be open about decision making and the “business” side of the law.

As a result I started my legal career with a great foundation in a raft of practical skills that, I realised quickly, law school simply did not teach me.  Over time I also realised that many lawyers (not all as new as you might think) simply had no knowledge or understanding of these practical areas of the law.  Graduates and law students were thrown in the deep end, and somehow it was simply expected that they would pick up these skills by osmosis through simply hanging around other lawyers with many years more experience.

And I could never understand why.

Why Not Learn Legal Skills Earlier?

“Back in the day” seems to be the catch cry of many older generation lawyers.  Just because they learned on the coal face and had limited exposure to coaching or mentoring, they seem to think that the system couldn’t be better.  It’s the same argument that sometimes prevents law firms embracing new forms of technology – they’ve always done it one way, and can’t see why they would bother doing it another.

I disagree.

I think that young lawyers can add far more value to law firms and the legal profession generally by taking charge of their practical knowledge and skills NOW.  I think that deliberate and concerted efforts towards the development and training of young lawyers in practical skills is going to result in better lawyers, more quickly.

That is what this website is fundamentally about.

It’s about giving you the information you need so that you can develop habits and mindset in your legal career that will make you valuable to your firm, and trusted by your clients.  It’s about you having the confidence to step up earlier in your career and become an integral part of your legal team, a valuable contributor to marketing and networking opportunities, and somebody who understands the motivations, business aspects and driving forces behind the decisions made in your firm.

If you can fulfill that role, you will progress your career in leaps and bounds compared to those who don’t.  You will be more highly sought after as an employee AND as a lawyer.  You will also feel more complete in your career as you contribute wholeheartedly to every aspect of the firm, rather than just limiting yourself to doing what you’re told without understanding where it fits in the overall scheme of the business.

Does that sound like the kind of lawyer you want to be?  Well then, this site is for you.

Take Off the Training Wheels

I can’t “make” you a better lawyer.  There’s only one person who can do that: you.  You can’t expect that other people will take responsibility for your career – that’s foolish and unlikely to accomplish anything.  If you’re a person that is content to coast along and let “things happen as they will” – then this site probably isn’t for you.  This site is for people who want to take control of their career, who want to deliberately improve their skills, and who are prepared to put in the work to do it.  Those are the people who are going to benefit from this site.

What I can do is to provide you with information gained from my experience, my constant reading, and my research into what makes us better lawyers.  That information will be, primarily, based around the practical skills that lawyers need to implement to succeed in their career.

It’s up to you to take the information on this site and put it into action.  Don’t use reading about this stuff as an excuse not to DO anything.  It’s in the DOING that you develop new and better habits.  It’s in the DOING that you see the real value of what I’m providing on this site.  It’s in the DOING that you start to get fulfillment and enjoyment from your legal career.

What Next?

Everyone says I’m supposed to finish articles I write with a “call to action”.  Well, here’s mine:  below is a button to subscribe to my weekly newsletter – click it, and sign up.  Why?  Because that way we can learn from each other.  I will continue to provide you with whatever helpful content I can, and I hope that you will share my information among your colleagues and friends, and weigh in with your own thoughts and opinions.  That way, together we will build up a body of information to raise the standard in the legal community.

As well as a weekly newsletter for subscribers only, your subscription will give you access to a free e-book which will provide you with 100 pages of material to get you going with marketing, business skills, motivation and job hunting.  It’s a great starting point for you as you take deliberate control of your career through concerted development of your legal skills to supplement your legal knowledge.

Once you’ve subscribed, come back and say hi in a comment to this post.  Tell me what you’re about and what you’re hoping to get from the site (or a joke – jokes are good).

Are you already a subscriber?  If so – that’s fantastic!  Thank you!  Could I prevail on you to make a comment in the comments below – I would love this post to become a starting point for the site where people can see what kind of community we have reading tips for lawyers.  Leave a comment just to say hello, and to say why you signed up to the site.  I’ll bet that over time you will find others who are just like you are here as well.

Happy Lawyering!

  • As always, I absolutely agree. As a young lawyer, I find comfort in the topic of your articles as they offer me answers to questions I’ve pondered (probably for far longer than I should) that I face day to day in practice and out of practice.

    I will happily share the content you contribute to the profession. It’s invaluable. Please don’t stop 🙂

  • ” can’t “make” you a better lawyer. There’s only one person who can do that: you. You can’t expect that other people will take responsibility for your career – that’s foolish and unlikely to accomplish anything.” – Blunt…but I like it. Thanks for a great post. 🙂

  • Alina Kondek-Tuchowska says

    March 6, 2015 at 11:17pm

    Chris you have interesting observation. During study law, I have a lot of question, but it was too difficult to find a person willing to answer sensibly and clear. Study law was boring for me. I have to digest and separate ready meals for baby beliefs. It was not pleasant, but I was lucky I found few very interesting Barristers and I have my fun during Leading Evidence Witness Competition. That gives me the picture what I will be doing. I observe in the court, criminal cases, trials and I found it exciting. I learn if I am interested, I read the cases and opinion and can easy follow the reasoning. As you know, I have other experience in nursing. Observing human reaction and intention is challenging and sometimes complicated, but in the end you can find what is needed if you do you research and check all documents carefully. That what I always liked in my previous job, and that was very helpful to my clients. I could save them from complication and as well very effectively make than comfortable when needed most. I like you reasoning, is positive, practical and encouraging. Well done. I am looking forward for next article. Keep writing.

  • Thank you Chris. As a junior lawyer, I find your articles/publications and podcasts (even the videos) very relevant, helpful and insightful; and they are very practical. I learn something new everytime I read your articles or publications or listen to your podcasts.

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