Comments from the New Lawyers Section Chairwoman
I recently participated in a panel discussion on the various options attorneys have for practicing law outside of the firm environment. I was amazed by the number of attendees at the program, most of whom were new lawyers in practice for less than five years, and by the degree to which many of those people felt trapped in their current situations. In light of the interest that this program sparked in new lawyers, I thought that I would share some of the panelists’ advice with you. Here are five “dos” and “don’ts” that will help you keep your professional options as open as possible. The dos: 1. Do sit down periodically and take a hard look at your current employment situation. 2. Do identify your strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and identify those practice areas in which you might have some interest based on those criteria. 3. Do everything that you can to expand your contacts within the legal and non-legal communities – most non-entry-level positions are filled by people who have some connection with the hiring entity. 4. Do take advantage of any opportunities available to you to learn new skills and new areas of the law. 5. Do explore and develop your own networking style – determine whether you like bar association activities, community service work, or involvement with sports organizations, for example. The don’ts: 1. Don’t be afraid of change – if you are unhappy in your current situation, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by making a switch from your current environment. 2. Don’t live at or beyond your salary level – if you do so, you will limit significantly the professional options that you have. 3. Don’t be afraid to consider taking a step backward to move forward in your career – consider moving to a smaller firm if you are not getting the experience that you would like, or consider taking a position at a lower step than you are at to be able to move to a different practice area. 4. Don’t forget to keep your resume updated, and maintain a list of your significant professional accomplishments. 5. Don’t forget that each person with whom you come into contact professionally may later be in a position to influence your career choice, so remain courteous and professional to all, even when they fail to do the same for you. If you are interested in learning more about alternative careers within the law, I encourage you to visit the American Bar Association’s Career Resource Center Web site at www.abanet.org/careercounsel.