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Career in law: Best practices for beginning a law career

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This guide outlines the top strategies for success when starting with a career in law.

Women are breaking barriers across industries and the legal profession is no exception. According to data reported to the American Bar Association (ABA), the number of women enrolled in law school has outnumbered men since 2016. However, increased enrollment is only the first step for women on the path to becoming successful attorneys. Although improvements are being made across the industry to improve equality, according to the ABA, barriers and implicit bias are still being faced by women as they pursue a career in the legal profession. It is evidently still vital for women to support each other and help their junior colleagues starting out as lawyers. 

From enrollment to career definition, the path is usually long. To produce relevant and exclusive content for law students, public tenderers and young people at the beginning of their chosen career, we outline the paths briefly below.

As the study of law opens up an extraordinary range of opportunities for the recent graduate, to begin with, we have listed the main careers that a bachelor can pursue outside the law firm – whether in the public sector or even in the private sector – and what is the starting remuneration of each of them.

In the public sector, there are several careers unique to law graduates or lawyers. In addition to offering stability, some public careers pay very high starting salaries when compared to the reality of civil servants in general and even to the private market.

In the private area, the possibilities go far beyond the traditional position in a large law firm. Often seen with reservations by members of traditional newsstands, the legal departments of large companies are a great opportunity for young people to gain space in the market and, who knows, in the future to occupy management positions in a multinational. The third sector is also an area that has attracted young students and graduates, who are increasingly concerned about adding social value to work.

Success strategies for a career in law

Learn from the experienced attorneys

Seeking guidance and connecting with experienced lawyers is vital to your success early on for a career in law. Ask questions. Do not be afraid to go to your boss or colleagues for help. It’s sometimes more beneficial to ask for advice if you’re unsure about something instead of trying to figure things out on your own. Observing how your experienced colleagues handle cases and client interations will, not only help you to gain knowledge, but will also help you as you begin to develop your own style and technique. 

Leave your ego behind

When starting out in a career in law, do not assume you know everything because you absolutely do not. The practice of law is nothing like law school. And, unfortunately, there are a lot of aspects of law for which law school simply cannot prepare you. Improving your practical and applied legal skills takes a long time – you learn something new every day.  If you experience a set-back or make a mistake, it’s important to understand that that happens to everyone.

And, view it as a learning experience.  It is also important to not be afraid to trust your instincs and to maintain confidence in yourself and your ability to practice law. No one is perfect, and you can only grow as you gain the personal experience. 

Gender discrimination is alive and thriving

As a female in a historically male-dominated profession, women are often held to different, even higher standards. Although tough to put into practice at times, do not let anyone’s misperceptions stop you from feeling confident and moving forward in a career in law. If you prepare and try your best, you won’t let yourself down.

Pick a niche

The world of law is such a huge area that very few lawyers practice all types. By trying to be too many things, you risk spreading yourself too thin and ending up a jack of all trades with basic expertise in everything. It is much better to specialize in a particular niche and strive to become a master of this area. It doesn’t matter whether it’s contract law, tort law, or entity compliance and governance. As long as you have a specialty and master it, you have a good chance of success.

Perseverance pays off

Working hard in law school and then working hard at your first job after graduation is essential to a successful career in law. The latter is most important because exhibiting a desire  to succeed, showing your superiors that you are dedicated and committed to gaining the experience and skills to become a successful lawyer.

Network. Network. Network.

Joining legal organizations is a very effective way to socialize and build a rapport with other attorneys and judges, as well as develop lifelong mentors. When I was a newly admitted attorney, I joined the Women and the Law Section and the Young Lawyers Section of the Delaware State Bar Association. It was a great way to meet other attorneys and to acquire mentors and contacts. I made a lot of connetions with many people with whom I am still in contact throughout my career in law.  

Maintain a healthy work-life balance

Despite the hard work and determination needed to pursue a successful legal career, it is important to take time to care for yourself and to create an optimal work-life balance. Staying late at the office and ordering take-out at 10:00 PM happens with a career in law. But, it’s important not to let that become a daily occurrence. Eating well, exercising, relaxing on the weekend are critical to avoid mental and physical exhaustion. It can be hard, but it is vital to build good habits and develop a healthy work-life balance early on in your career to prevent burn out. Work is just a part of your life – not your entire life.

Conclusion

Ultimately, while I can only speak to my own experience, there is no blueprint to navigate a career in law effectively. Hard work, perseverance, and self-motivation are the main driving forces behind becoming a successful attorney. Learning from experienced others, trusting your instincts, networking, and working hard, are all ways you can put yourself on the path to career success.

About Eileen McGivney

Eileen McGivney is a rising presence in the New York legal profession. In 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 she was selected to the New York Metro Super Lawyers Rising Stars list in the personal injury practice area. Prior to joining The Perecman Firm, McGivney served as an attorney at a prominent plaintiff’s firm in NYC. She was also an attorney at a personal injury law firm in Delaware for several years before moving to New York City. Admitted to practice law in the New York State Courts, Delaware State Courts, and Pennsylvania State Courts, she is also a member of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association.

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