Made any resolutions?
Whether you believe in them or not, the new year is always a great time to set new goals for your personal and professional life. Whether you are looking for a career change or upgrade, improving your skills as an attorney is necessary to improving your career. Below, we would like to share some insights into some of the most important traits of a skilled attorney to help you evaluate how you can grow in 2018.
The longer an attorney has been in practice, the more skills the attorney is presumed to have. If you have been practicing for more than a few years, then the odds are that you have what is needed. With this is mind, think about your answer to step one: what skills do you currently have as an attorney?
Have you developed specialized knowledge or insight in a particular industry, practice area, procedure, or process? What types of assignments come easy to you? What areas have you been relied upon to deliver results? On the other side of this coin, consider whether there are areas where you feel underutilized. Chances are, there is a need for that experience or knowledge somewhere (if not inside your current firm, perhaps at another).
This leads us to step two: what can you do that other attorneys can not?
Supercharging your career requires more than intellectual horsepower. You have to steer it all strategically and distinguish yourself from all of the other intelligent attorneys. Are there objectives, ideas, or concepts that you understand or can interpret faster than other attorneys? Where do you get lost in the weeds, where do you cut through complex facts? Knowing where you can capitalize on your strengths and develop a deeper level of expertise will help you become valuable to both sophisticated clients and law firms.
Once you have identified how you want to distinguish yourself, remember that you can not stop learning. Dive into what you do well and what you are interested in doing to continue getting better and better at it. This can be as narrow as learning the best practices of taking depositions, to being as broad as developing public speaking and presentation skills. As you continue to develop your strengths and educate yourself to mitigate your weaknesses, take some time to reflect on how that applies to your practice. Once consistent, you will be able to identify the value that distinguishes you from other attorneys.
Finally, think honestly about your progress with step three: how good are you at bringing in business?
If an attorney can bring in a sufficient amount of high-paying clients, that attorney can be successful just about anywhere. The trajectory of your career requires you understand what your current ability is in business development, and how far you want this ability to be developed.
For junior and entry level attorneys, here are two important points to evaluate to help set you on the path of developing business:
First, learn how to get along with different types of people. Thriving in a legal environment requires getting along with a wide variety of people. If an attorney is unable to get along with people in the office, the odds are that he or she is going to have a difficult time getting along with different clients—and this in turn reflects poorly on the attorney’s ability to succeeding at the law firm. Be mindful of others by developing stronger listening and communication skills, and start developing positive rapports with different groups of people.
Second, learn to generate the energy you require to be effective and efficient. While we all can find the energy for ourselves, our profession requires us to use that energy to also help fight for others. Reconnect with what inspired you to practice law in the first place. Pay attention to causes, activities, or hobbies you are deeply passionate about or enjoy—and carve out time to pursue those interests.
If you simultaneously develop the ability to fuel yourself with positive energy while learning how to get along well with a diverse range of people, you will start to develop a natural sense of confidence and charisma that is key to forging relationships and bringing in business.