YOUNG lawyers can often be overwhelmed when they first start at a law firm, but the path to success doesn’t have to be difficult if you follow some simple advice, according to some top legal professionals.
“Think like a partner, but don’t act like a partner,” suggests John Mann, partner at Middletons.
Mann has seen many young lawyers come through during his career and said there are several key areas to focus on as a young lawyer.
Firstly, “never compromise on quality. Near enough is not good enough,” he said.
Secondly, always keep up to date with the law, identify a few good quality legal services and read them regularly, Mann said.
One important thing to remember, not just in the legal world, is professional respect he adds. “In a practical manner that means not being stupid or rude in negotiations, ultimately it will back fire on you, because the legal market is a small market.”
Another tip is to always ask questions of those senior to you. “Better to ask questions than to run off on a tangent.”
More than ever, lawyers are involved in providing a service and managing their client’s expectations is a key factor in return business. “Always promise long and deliver short,” explains Mann. “Meet deadlines; keep clients advised on changes to deadlines and expenses.”
This includes establishing clear outcomes with the client before starting on a case.
Punctuality might sound like an obvious tip, but being on time to meetings and commitments is a simple way to establish a good impression.
In the last 10 to 15 years Mann said he has seen the importance of marketing become more noticeable amongst the legal profession and a key factor in getting ahead.
“We encourage our staff to develop their marketability from an early age- because their success will depend on people wanting to brief them later in their careers.”
This correlates to Mann’s other tip, which is to build a professional network from an early point. “Grow with them in as your career grows,” he said. That’s the way you get work.”
Another basic tip that can be easily overlooked is to read the news.
For those lawyers who aren’t natural born public speakers, Mann suggests they participate in in-house or external public speaking courses, as they will be required to speak, pitch and present, in their career.
When working in a larger firm, Mann said it’s important to remember that everyone is working as a team and not to get involved in "side swiping" colleagues or "office politics".
Second year lawyer at the firm, Michael Jeffery, has picked up a few tips of his own since starting at Middletons.
“One of the key things to remember is that junior levels should be treating partners as clients in their own right- the work of a junior lawyer is dictated by partners,” he said.
"Learning to delegate at a junior level is also important, because as a partner, you will be forced to manage competing workloads."
Mann and Jeffery both suggest keeping on top of billings, budgets and debtors from word one, to show that you are responsible for the work you are doing.
“Getting involved in pro-bono activity is also a good way to get exposure to new areas, along with publicity for your self and the firm,” Jeffery said.
“I found that it’s also important to try and maintain friendly relations with administration staff- it can make life a lot easier for you.”
Lastly, always present yourself appropriately and remember to take holidays.
“Young lawyers can be afraid to take annual leave- but they risk burning out too early otherwise,” said Jeffery.
“Try to take a minimum of two weeks every six months,” adds Mann.