“Frankfurt encourages young attorneys to blog,” Lockhart says. The firm has blogs focused on Professional Responsibility, IP and Media Law, Technology Law, and Advertising Law, and while all attorneys may contribute to various blogs, writing for the publications is an especially attractive opportunity for younger attorneys seeking to build their reputation and knowledge in an area of expertise.
Look for Opportunities to Give Presentations
Alexandra Berke, an employment attorney at Berke-Weiss Law in New York, has developed a reputation as a go-to public speaker for CLE presentations to attorneys and talks organized by bar associations. Berke notes that while large bar associations like the New York State Bar Association are well-known, smaller ones like the Mid-Hudson Women’s Bar Association, to which she has presented, offer opportunities for younger lawyers to get presentation experience.
“People are always looking for CLE credit, so it’s possible to propose a CLE in a smaller venue that gives you the chance to work on that skill set,” Berke says. “The more people who hear you speak, the more people learn about your firm, and that doesn’t hurt.”
Berke says that when changes to the law occur, she pitches herself to give CLE presentations at different bar associations. She says that in addition to speaking to legal audiences, she has also presented to student groups. She has spoken to MBA students about how to negotiate their salaries, for example.
“You don’t have to think solely about speaking and writing for lawyers,” Berke says. “A lot of what I have done was Know Your Rights-type training, helping the general public know their rights. When you do that, you get much better at knowing what the public’s general concerns are, which makes your practice better as well.”
Lockhart, who also recommends that young attorneys pursue CLE presentation opportunities, says one way to begin doing that is to ask a partner if you can tag along with them when they give presentations. Lockhart did that with a partner at his firm, Tyler Maulsby, and the two spoke on legal ethics issues for IP lawyers at the 2023 New York State Bar Association Annual Meeting. He also spoke on a legal ethics CLE panel during the New York Women’s Bar Association Annual Meeting this past spring.
The legal ethics associate also stresses the importance of remaining humble and asking questions. “It’s a matter of making sure you realize that you don’t know a lot—and to become an expert, you have to learn from the experts,” Lockhart says.
Find Mentors and Learn from Them
Ashley Wald, a partner at Holland & Hart in Denver, learned from experts and found mentors in the field of renewable energy law when she transitioned to the field after doing corporate work in the Beijing office of DLA Piper.
“There was a wind project being financed, and it needed all hands on deck,” Wald says about one of her first assignments for Holland & Holland. “Once I did that deal, I was fortunate to pivot my career and start working on renewable energy work instead of just corporate work,” she says. The move allowed her to develop expertise in a growing field.
“My advice would be to really try to find people who are good to work with and good mentors because you’re going to spend a lot of time working with these people,” she adds.
So, whether you start by blogging, volunteering to give presentations, finding a mentor, or, ideally, combining all these tactics, becoming an expert in a subject area is well within reach, even for a young lawyer.