Recently I celebrated with some friends their admission day as new lawyers. It’s always a great day, and I love seeing young aspiring lawyers taking their oaths of office and having their achievements confirmed by the Judges of the Supreme Court.
It’s generally after around 17 or more years of full time education that this happens.
And that’s where the danger begins…
No More Goals
For young lawyers the last few years have seen a nearly single minded approach to life – finish study, finish their training and get admitted as a lawyer.
Now that’s done.
So what’s next?
The problem is that your goals for the last 17 years or so have been pre-defined. They’ve been laid out for you in a nice easy linear fashion – do this, then do that, then achieve this thing, and do this mandatory step along the way.
The luxury of having your goals spoon fed to you is over now, I’m afraid.
Your Next Step?
The likelihood is that you’re going to be in career limbo for a little while. You’re not yet senior enough to be looking at promotion, although certainly you could start putting a little (a very little) thought into that.
The danger for newly admitted lawyers is that they fall straight into a rut. They just stop improving, despite having such a fantastic springboard to keep going on.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t take a quick break and enjoy your time not studying. Nor am I recommending you go straight back into some kind of post-graduate insanity.
However what I AM saying is that you shouldn’t assume that your legal career will now just look after itself for the next 40 years until you retire.
Need Some Goals?
After you’ve recovered from your admission day celebrations, here are a few suggestions for you to think about areas that you might want to focus on that will have benefit to your legal career:
- Learn how to write. This is something that can be difficult and take a long time, so you might as well start now. Start focusing on the difference between academic writing and client-focused writing, and implement the latter.
- Start administration. If you haven’t had your own files yet, or you’ve been entirely dependent on others to do your file management for you, then now is the time to stop. You need to start monitoring estimates, formal compliance issues, your “work in progress”, bills that go out and diarisation of important dates. These things are foundational for young lawyers so you need to get a grip on them very quickly.
- Begin your marketing habits. The fact that you are junior doesn’t mean you can’t start establishing some new marketing habits now. You’ll get your business cards soon – use them. Go to functions, speak at events, write some articles – for now it doesn’t really matter what you do THAT much (it does a little) but getting in the habit of looking for business development opportunities now will serve you in the longer run.
Don’t Stop at Goals
After goals you need implementation – don’t just set a bunch of goals then put them in a drawer. Pick one goal – drill down into what’s required, then start doing it (and I mean basically right now – after you finish reading this article).
Got any more suggestions? What should newly admitted lawyers have as their next aspirations? What do YOU have as your next step?