Succeeding in Your Legal Career While Waiting for Bar Exam Results
Are you a lawyer yet?
This is a weird question for most entry level “lawyers” to answer at this time. Yes, you finished law school and took the bar (or maybe you are a lawyer in another state but since you are barred here)—but since you don’t know whether you’ve passed yet you technically aren’t a “lawyer” yet….
This is a period of uncertainty. You don’t know how you’ll fit in with the firm, adjust to life as an associate, pass the bar exam…or maybe you are still finding a job.
In the midst of all of this uncertainty, however, there are a few things I’d like to share that are certain and that you can do to set yourself up for success:
Actively pursue your interests.
Much of your work will involve constant research and learning (whether you enjoy it or are doing it to pay the bills). You will flourish once you spend your time in a practice or an industry actually interests you. Make room to pursue your interests.
If you think that admitting to not knowing something shows weakness…you need to know that you aren’t fooling anyone. Senior lawyers not only do not expect you to know much of anything—they know that you don’t know much of anything. Everyone would much rather you ask a potentially silly question now than to have to spend hours of work recovering from a mistake.
Focus on delivering excellent service.
Whether you are already working and want to climb the ladder or you are just hoping to land that first job, you have to build strong relationships with people. People like people who give first before taking. Proactively think of ways to be of service to others (in your community, at your law firm, with your bar association). Ask how you can help make their lives easier. You will flourish by being of service to others.
Own your practice.
The practice of law is also a business—and your clients are your customers. Remember that you are responsible for your practice and your contribution to your firm. If you treat a partner’s matter like it is your matter, you will likely not only do great work, but also earn that partner’s trust. Conveying that sense of ownership is what will make your skills in demand. If you are looking for your first gig, be sure to convey that you are ready to be accountable and take ownership of what you are delegated.
Add value now.
You might not know as much as your partner about a particular practice area, but that does not mean you stay on the sidelines and wait until it is your turn. You need to add value now (sooner rather than later). Improve your firm’s social presence or help manage its online reputation.
Guard your reputation.
It takes years to build, and minutes to destroy. It is the foundation fo your practice, and at the end of the day, how you make your living and grow.
And a special tip for recent bar exam takers who are still waiting to land a job (and some law students as well):
Focus on getting a job that will teach you how to be a good lawyer and put food on your table first.
After you developed some basic skills, then start figuring out how to make your next step. Once you are a working lawyer, you can mold your job or your career to suit whatever kind of lawyer you really want to do. Focus on getting the best job you can and worry about your dream role later.