Becoming a successful lawyer is no walk in the park, but it’s also no magic trick either. There are a number of habits you can practice and characteristics you can cultivate to achieve success in the legal field.
Here are 5 fundamentals:
Be Proactive: Being proactive means having a set of short-term and long-term goals and knowing what steps you need to take to achieve them. You’ll need to take responsibility for the little things that comprise each and every day in order to build a foundation upon which your successful career will rest. If you build an unstable or ineffective foundation, your career will suffer as a result. Be mindful of what you could do better, and then do your best to improve over time.
Manage Your Time: Efficiency is a ubiquitous challenge, but it is one that is particularly felt by new lawyers. The instinct is to rush, rush, rush to hit all those legal deadlines but this can lead to errors and important details slipping through the cracks. It may feel counterintuitive, but moving slowly at the start will allow you to delegate tasks appropriately and develop a comprehensive plan before you dive in headfirst. Over time, you’ll gain a better sense of time management as you fall into a comfortable daily and weekly rhythm.
Build Relationships: Successful lawyers all have one thing in common — a solid network. Junior lawyers can begin building their network by looking up the chain of command. By making the lives of their firm’s senior lawyers as easy as possible, junior lawyers will make themselves more attractive for responsibilities in the future. This isn’t just about doing mountains of case research — it also means managing client issues, anticipating unexpected problems, and helping things run smoothly behind the scenes.
Notice the Details: The legal field is all about the details. Landmark court decisions may be determined by subtle distinctions while successful defenses often rest on a couple of easily overlooked details. Successful law students are already detail-oriented, but junior lawyers need to make details a conscious part of their psyches. Always triple-check your work to make sure that everything follows logically, that your references are spot-on, and that there are no typographical errors. Typos may not seem like a big deal, but they reflect poorly on your work and suggest to senior lawyers that more substantial problems lurk underneath.
Ask Questions: One of the worst things you can do as a new lawyer is avoid asking questions out of fear or embarrassment. You will only do yourself a disservice if you do not figure out the right way to do things early on. Junior lawyers are not expected to know how to do everything when they come on board, but they are expected to speak up when they’re unsure about Confirm the project you’re working on, double-check the deadline you’ve been assigned, and speak up when you hit a roadblock.