April 28, 2021 Share
20 Years of Wisdom in 5 Bullets: Tips for Law Graduates
By: Amy Siegel Oran.
On this day, 20 years ago, I was worrying about law school finals and the upcoming bar exam. Today, as I look back, I am amazed by how much time has passed and I am taking stock of what I’ve learned. My experiences over the last two decades have shaped me into an excellent attorney, of which I am proud; however, they have also taught me that when I got into this business, I just didn’t get it.
I took a survey of some lawyer friends also entering their third decade of practice, who are also wondering how we got so old so fast. I asked what we were never taught in law school, that have caused us challenges on our roads to success, and the responses were astonishingly similar: it may be the practice of law, but it’s about successfully running a business.
To excel and be a leader in our respective fields we have all had to do more than hone our legal acumen. We had to build and manage a support team, a solid list of clients, and an ongoing plan to ensure continuity with both. Regardless of whether we are solo practitioners, part of a small group of lawyers, or a partner in a large firm like Kelley Kronenberg, we all recognized there was a fundamental skill set we still lacked when they awarded us our diplomas.
If I could go back and offer my 25 year-old self, 5 pieces of advice for entry level Law graduates, it would be these:
- We are sales people and our work product is our service. Learn to sell by doing your homework, knowing who you’re targeting, and focusing on their needs. To successfully market, you must effectively convey what you have to offer, portraying yourself as the most qualified, competent, and enjoyable to work with. Most of all, you must relay how you can help propel their business.
- Your reputation in the legal community will directly impact your ability to deliver your client’s preferred results. Learn to be the first to grant a favor, to reach out to resolve disputes, to apologize if the situation warrants it, and to treat colleagues with respect, regardless of the nature of the dispute.
- Hold yourself accountable and take ownership. Learn that mistakes happen, no matter how careful you may be; what matters is how you handle them. Be up front, admit errors, understand you are responsible for the actions of your team and accept the blame, rather than pointing the finger at your subordinates. Turn mistakes into teachable moments, not reprimands.
- You cannot do it alone. Learn to surround yourself with a team that is competent, reliable, and capable. Recognize that being a manager is a skill to be studied and perfected over time; it was never taught to you in law school. Ensure everyone on your staff knows they’re appreciated, that you value them as colleagues, and respect them as people. You did not get where you are alone. Inspire your team to work toward your vision by sharing the successes and victories.
- Keep it simple. Learn that clients and companies want to see drive and determination. Show you deserve it through your work product, but also know you have to ask for what you want. When it comes to agreeing on hourly rates or asking your partner for a raise, be clear and concise. You are worth it and tell them why. Know that unless you straight up ask, you cannot expect the results you want.
With twenty years under my belt, I’ve come a long way and could not be more proud of my success; but, my education is not over. The technology gets faster, the law evolves, and social change affects the attitudes of employees; it is still and will always be a learning process. While I was done with school a long time ago, I know I’ve still got a whole lot left to learn.
Contact Amy Siegel Oran at:
Phone: (800) 718-9865
DISCLAIMER: This article is provided as a courtesy and is intended for the general information of the matters discussed above and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Neither Kelley Kronenberg, nor its individual attorneys or staff, are responsible for errors, omissions and/or typographical errors – always seek competent legal counsel.