Your Legal Career by Design
I recently had the opportunity to share my tips on designing your career to a group of female lawyers. I spent a lot of time thinking about the topic in advance of speaking and in doing so came to some realizations that I felt may be beneficial to our LiL readers.
A career in law can be lengthy. I am in particular thinking about Constance Isherwood who recently passed away at the age of 101, and who worked the day that she passed. She worked because she loved the job, gained a sense of purpose from it and because she wanted to.
A career in law can be varied and can take a variety of forms throughout your years of practice. I myself have worked for a mid-size firm in a smaller city, a boutique firm in a large city, as a solo practitioner and now in a large firm. There are obviously many other options in terms of the organization that you can work for. There are benefits to each and no doubt downsides to each. There are various times in your life where one of these organizations may make more sense for you than the others. Variety can also take the form of the type of work that you are doing, the type of people that you are working with, the type of clients that you are serving or in fact whether you are functioning in a traditional legal role or not. That variety can help you have longevity in your career, help you stay engaged and interested and can generally just make your career more fulfilling.
Keeping all of this in mind, my three tips for designing a career that is fulfilling are as follows:
Do the hard work.
Do the hard work of evaluating and assessing what it is that you want. We all come to law with a variety of professional, social and familial constructs around what a career following a law degree should look like. It is hard to set all of that aside and really evaluate what you want your career to look like. That hard work does not end when you start your career, but rather it continues throughout your legal career.
In your community and in your profession. Those with legal training have a special skill set that is immeasurably valuable in your community. That skill set is the unique way that legally trained people have of boiling down a number of facts to the core issues, communicating and analyzing issues. I have learned over the years that we lawyers do these three things in a different way than those that are not trained in law. That skill is always welcome on committees, boards and organizations in your community. Do your part to give back to your community and get involved. The pay back is that that involvement will open your mind to opportunities, interests and people that you may not even know exist.
Involvement in your profession is similar. Our profession is self-governing and relies on us being involved. Our professional associations require participation to thrive and remain relevant. Involvement in the profession introduces you to people and opportunities, educates you on issues and principles, elevates your profile and just generally will make you better at the law, regardless of the form that your career takes.
Change is scary but over a career of the span that legal careers are, change is necessary to ensure that you continue to thrive. Don’t let fear of change hold you back. Change is just a change, nothing more. Change is not permanent and not irreversible. Having a failure does not make you a failure, it is simply a step on the path to whatever your future holds.