Universities do little to prepare budding young lawyers for the transition from academic study to the ‘business’ of practising law. In today’s world of ever-increasing commercialisation, the practice of law is a business and you are not called a ‘fee earner’ for no reason. The earlier in your career that you gain an understanding of the commercial realities of practice then the better placed you will be to succeed.
The most successful lawyers start developing the art of self promotion and rainmaking early in their career. It is not enough to be technically excellent at what you do – you need others to know about it. Be visible. Building a strong reputation both within the legal industry and with the outside client world is highly valuable. While self promotion does not come naturally to many lawyers, those who work on their reputation and client, marketing and business development skills are better placed to retain and attract work. A rainmaker who can generate work for themselves and others will always have career opportunities available to them.
Of critical importance also is your contribution to the firm’s bottom line. You must take control of your ability to bill and to make budget. A busy lawyer is a successful lawyer. No-one wants excuses – if you are not making budget because your partner is not giving you enough work then be proactive and seek out work from another partner or through your own referrals. If necessary, move to another firm with the resources to enable you to remain busy and challenged in order to continue progressing your career.
In summary, gone are the days when a legal qualification and a certain number of years post-qualified experience would see you climb up through the traditional ranks of a law firm. Now, you need to work on the whole package.
Technical ability is a given, but you must also develop your client, marketing and business development skills. Finally, you need to bill. After all, the correlation between your billings, your salary and your career progression is a reality of the business of law.
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