Dear Lil: I’ve just joined a new firm and I’m intimidated by the number of smart, successful people around me. Any tips on how to demonstrate my value and stand out as a new face at the firm? Signed ~ Time to Shine
Guest Blogger and Harper Grey Associate, Erin Hatch, provides tips on putting your best foot forward when starting at a new firm.
Dear Time to Shine:
I joined my current law firm as a lateral associate, so I can relate to both the excitement and anxiousness that comes with joining a new firm. The following are my top three tips for a successful move to a new firm (apart from what you were hired to do – produce high quality work!):
Actively introduce yourself to colleagues
Your new firm will likely announce your hire on the firm website, firm social media and by a firm-wide email. Accordingly, you may assume that your colleagues will introduce themselves to you. I would not make this assumption unless you want to wait for office door knocks and lunch dates for a very long time!
It is your job to introduce yourself and get to know your colleagues. You were likely hired to work in a specific practice group. By virtue of your work you will have regular contact, and hopefully gain a comfortable rapport, with colleagues in your practice group. However, in addition to colleagues in your practice group, be pro-active in meeting colleagues outside of your group. For example, by asking a colleague you do not work with for coffee or lunch or regularly attending (and not leaving early!) firm social events. By “putting yourself out there” you will demonstrate your confidence, go-getter attitude and personable nature, all of which will make you stand out.
Network and promote your expertise internally
You may see no value in networking with lawyers outside of your practice because those lawyers do not “feed” you work or are not partners in the group you are a member of. If this is you, reject and reframe this mind set!
Lawyers from another practice group will likely know little about your legal expertise (including successful cases or transactions you have been involved in). Showcase your skillset to colleagues outside of your practice group by brainstorming what value you can offer to them and their clients. For example, if you specialize in creditors’ remedies, you may be a valuable resource to business lawyers and their clients. Similarly, a wills and estate lawyer may find commonalities with lawyers in the family law group. Apart from introducing yourself and connecting to these colleagues in social settings, specifically let them know you have identified potential practice synergies, have expertise in the area and are available and eager to discuss any legal issues that may arise with them and their clients. You may also consider approaching them to co-author an article, offer to present on a topic to one of their clients or send them interesting articles you come across that may apply to their practice. By networking internally, in addition to generating client referrals, you will show off your legal knowledge and flare for business development.
Volunteer for in-firm committees and presentations
Designate some of your non-billable hours to volunteering on a firm committee or presenting at an in-firm seminar. In addition to getting to know your colleagues on a committee, you will stand out for your commitment to the firm and contributions to firm culture, as well as demonstrate your ability to tackle the committee’s specific tasks. You can further display your expertise in an area, as well as your oral advocacy skills, by volunteering to present at an in-firm seminar. If you have already presented on a topic outside the firm, consider saving some time and recycle the topic to present in-house (or vice versa, present in-house and then consider presenting on the same topic outside the firm). This is also an opportunity for you to hone your presentation skills for future presentations outside the firm which may have higher stakes.
In addition to the above tips, remember that the firm hired you for a reason and, although it is healthy to recognize nerves and the successful careers of your new colleagues, you deserve the position that you landed! Good luck in your new position, Time to Shine!
About the Author
Erin Hatch is an associate at Harper Grey LLP in Vancouver, BC. She has a diverse civil litigation practice and is a member of the Commercial Litigation, Insolvency and Restructuring, Estate Litigation and Defamation practice groups at Harper Grey LLP.