Crash Course: What Law School Has Not Taught Us About Practicing Law | Baker Donelson

The law school covers you with regards to the rules of civil procedure or evidence. Law school will also help you polish your resume and interview skills to ensure you land a good job. What law schools often miss is the opportunity to give students insight into the things that will help them thrive, no matter where their career takes them. We have learned a few things throughout our legal career paths that we share to fill in the gaps that law school has not taught us that will help you become a great student.

Don’t Let Your Career Happen To You – Take Charge

Regarding your studies and career, you can be a passenger or a pilot. The opportunities are there, but you can’t rely on people to keep you in mind for them. Take the initiative to ask questions and try new things. New lawyers can fall into the trap of thinking they have to pay their dues and take it all over when it comes to salary, rates, what kind of work you’re given, and what meetings you’re invited to. While there will be a period of learning and adaptation, you shouldn’t be afraid to share your goals and ask for help to reach them. You will stand out if you show that you are thinking about where your career is going and how it fits into the bigger picture of your organization.

Having a support team requires authenticity

Have you ever seen a racing driver complete a race without a refueling team? Of course not. To be successful, you need a team of people around you. Building and maintaining relationships is essential to thrive in this stressful and fast-paced profession. At some point, you will need someone to support and advise you. If you aspire to be a leader in the industry, your relationships with the people who will become the decision makers can make a big difference, and the most important aspect of building meaningful relationships is authenticity. If people don’t know you, they can’t help you. Be willing and open, and keep in touch with law professors and classmates. Be honest with your mentors, sponsors and other contacts about what you are up against and where you want to go in your career.

Become an “expert” early

Establishing yourself as the “go-to person” in your environment is a great way to introduce yourself as a new lawyer. If you are lucky enough to have identified an area of ​​interest early on, consider taking relevant courses or participating in programs (p. This way you have a knowledge base to jump right in when you start practicing. If you already practice, learn as much as possible in your spare time. Many organizations and bar associations offer free continuing legal education (CLE) courses and pro bono opportunities. Identification and exploration an area of ​​interest or a skill will eventually attract internal and external recognition that will make you an added value for any team.

Keep business development and professional networking in mind

The idea of ​​growing a business and developing a professional network can be daunting, even for an experienced lawyer. However, as a law student or new lawyer, it is imperative to start sowing these seeds early and often. While studying law or in your first few years of practice, consider joining (and staying actively involved in) organizations such as local bar associations, or participating in volunteer projects that advance the missions that you think. This will give you the opportunity to build organic connections. Consider leveraging your LinkedIn profile to market yourself by sharing articles you post or local recognition and engage with your network to help celebrate their victories. You never know where your law school colleagues will end up. Treat everyone you interact with as a potential referral source.

Connect with the “go-getter” and find out what works for them

In law school, and in practice, the go-getter often gets a bad rap. Still, take into account that the rock star law student or new lawyer has likely identified study tips or work habits that are effective and might work for you as well. If you know that a colleague of yours is being praised for their good performance, it may be beneficial to contact them. During the conversation, acknowledge that you have observed that they are working well and that you would like to know if they have any specific studies or organizational tips that work for them. The results of this interaction can be twofold: You might discover useful tips that will improve your study and / or practice skills, and you will continue to develop your professional network.

Being a lawyer is much more than understanding theoretical legal concepts and knowing how to apply them. The successful new lawyer should also develop a mastery of soft skills like networking and initiative. Starting a legal career can be a challenge for anyone, but the skillful new lawyer will recognize and appreciate every opportunity to learn, connect, grow, and develop a successful practice.


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Nancy I. Romero