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In the first few years of practicing law, there is wisdom in focusing on honing your substantive legal craft. It is critical to be knowledgeable in the practice of law. However, in this day and age, it's abundantly clear that being a smart lawyer just isn't enough. There are plenty of smart lawyers around - what makes you different? How can a prospective client distinguish you from anyone else they might be considering? We believe that being a terrific lawyer includes taking charge of your professional direction, being proactive about achieving your goals, and, of course, understanding what your clients think is important.
Learning how to develop and maintain relationships - the essence of sales, service, and, ultimately, your success - requires skills that are just as important to develop as legal research, writing and advocacy.
The business of providing legal services today takes place in a competitive, fast-paced, ever-changing industry. Now, more than ever, lawyers must pay attention to client retention and development in order to compete and survive. Associates in firms of all sizes have an important role to play in this business. Just as it is important to be mentored in technical skills, associates must learn about marketing and business development so they may begin to develop the attendant skills as early in their careers as possible.
Graduates coming out of law school are uniquely positioned for success given the relationships you have with law schoolmates. Whether your plan is to grow a solo practice, become a partner in a law firm, find an in-house position or pursue an alternative career (see chart -1), the relationships you create in law school will be a key to your success in ten years; It is what you do with those relationships for the next ten to fifteen years that will determine how you will be able to leverage and maximize those relationships.
By way of example, here are few situations when you will be able to work with law schoolmates in the future:
Here are a few quick tips to help you get started and keep in touch with your network:
Again, remember that learning how to develop and maintain relationships - the essence of sales, service, and, ultimately, your success - starts today.
For more tips and practical advice, read the ABA's book, The Law Firm Associates Guide to Personal Marketing and Selling Skills by Beth Cuzzone and Catherine MacDonagh at www.ababooks.org.
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