Tackle the Competition
Professional athletes constantly strive to remain at the top of their game. They work to achieve and maintain a competitive advantage. Those who are most successful spend the extra time to obtain the necessary edge.
Lawyers compete for jobs, for partnership, for clients, for publication, for pride, and for acceptance. For young lawyers, facing the competition within the profession can be a daunting task. They are asked to learn the practice of law, network, develop and maintain clients, and participate in pro-bono activities, while at the same time billing hours. It is a challenge for young lawyers to keep up not only with their own practices but also with the friendly (and sometimes not so friendly) competition. As athletes hone their skills to create a competitive advantage, young lawyers also must find and create their own edge. It is not easy to stay at the forefront of a competitive profession, but by having a plan and putting in the extra effort, young lawyers can attain their competitive edge. Below are a few suggestions to come out on top.
Limit Your Playbook
There is no need to know everything. It is best to choose a practice area or two of interest or comfort and focus on becoming an expert in those areas. This allows you to create a niche or specialty. The goal is to be that “go-to” person for a particular practice area. Be the expert on loan workouts or the estate and gift tax guru. Focusing and staying on the cutting edge of a certain practice area will benefit not only your clients but also your career.
Look Down the Field
We are all aware of the general resources: local, state, and federal bar associations provide numerous but valuable periodicals, publications, presentations, and CLEs. The first course of action should be to narrow your involvement in these groups. Being a member of the ABA is great, but being a member of the Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section of the ABA is better, if your practice focuses on those areas. Most local and state bar associations offer exclusive resources for members that focus on current and continuing developments in specific areas.
The general resources available can take you only so far. You need to be ahead of the curve. You need to know up-to-the-minute changes in your field. In the past few years advances in technology have made it easier to get real-time information, so use it to your advantage and set yourself apart from your peers. Using the easy but relatively new resources beyond the typical sources of information will assist in putting you ahead of the game.
Sign up for Internet alerts such as Google Alerts. Through an Alert, you receive an e-mail when the search engine finds new results—such as web pages, newspaper articles, or blogs—that match your search term. It is a great way to track proposed legislation, hot topics, or monitor a developing story in a general practice area. Set the scope of the search for the results that you want. The best part (besides being free) is that the search engine does all the work—the searching, updating, and e-mailing. All you have to do is choose what to read. If something happens in your field of practice, you should know about it instantly through an e-mail.
Join and participate in social media (Facebook and Twitter) and the legal blogs. There are blogs on almost everything. If there is not one on your topic, start your own. Social media and blogs are great tools for communicating ideas and information. They allow you to get your name out over the Internet, promote your ideas, indirectly market yourself not only within your geographical area but also across the world, and win new clients. In addition, participating in this type of medium requires you to engage and think about topics in your practice area. Many current and hot topics are discovered in blogs.
Have a Game Plan and Practice
We are all busy with the daily grind of work and life outside of the office. The only practical way to learn and study is to set aside the necessary time. Whether it is in the morning over a cup a coffee, at lunch at your desk, or during an afternoon break, setting aside a few minutes each day or a certain block of time each week to read the latest edition of Probate & Property, review your Google Alerts, broadcast a tweet, or update a blog is a necessary element to your success. As athletes must train, so must you. Find the time, make the effort, and stay consistent.
The legal profession is a competitive business. It takes effort to get ahead and stay ahead. The resources and tools are available to help you carve your niche and become that go-to attorney. You might not win every court case or be successful in every transaction, but young lawyers can shape their practices, professions, and futures.
For more information on the RPTE YLN, please contact:
Joseph E. Lubinski, Co-Chair
Ballard Spahr LLP
Rana H. Salti, Co-Chair
Kinship Trust Company, LLC
G. Wogan Bernard, Co-Vice-Chair
Chaffe McCall LLP
New Orleans, Louisiana
Robert M. Nemzin, Co-Vice-Chair
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan