Legal Career Resources

21 Pieces of Advice Attorneys Need to Hear
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Summary: top legal recruiter dishes out career advice for attorneys.

According to legal recruiter Harrison Barnes, attorneys can progress their careers by following this advice:


1.  Maintain a good attitude:

Your attitude about your firm and its management will have a huge impact on your success. Negative attitudes are noticed and not enjoyed; good firms don’t advance those with negativity. Be a team player and accept assignments with a positive attitude.

2.  Surround yourself with other positive people:

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When you have friends that are negative, others will assume you are the same way. People find it easier to assume things rather than discover the truth for themselves. If you hang around other associates who are negative, people will assume you’re unhappy and uninterested in progressing at the firm. Instead, surround yourself with positive people. They will lift you toward greater success.

3.  Volunteer to do extra work: 

Just showing up to work every day isn’t enough. If you want to get noticed, get involved. Take on extra assignments and volunteer for tasks. People will value your willingness to go the extra mile.

4.  People that leave a law firm are still important members of your network:

You never know when things might change at your firm. The economy may collapse, your practice area may slow down, or the management of the firm may decide to go in another direction. It’s important to keep in touch with those that have already left the firm. They may be valuable resources when you need a job later.

5.  Don’t act entitled:

Many lawyers struggle with entitlement. They feel they deserve their job, a big salary, and promotions. Buck the trend by working hard and proving you belong there. Focus more on the firm and your clients’ needs than on getting that fancy office.

6.  Control your stress:

Constantly talking about how much work you have, how stressed you are, or how hard you work will only show your employer that you are at your max. Keep your cool when you’re stressed. Continue to work away until the job is done.

7.  Spend time with colleagues outside of work when possible:

You don’t have to give coworkers a front door key to your home, but it’s a good idea to accept invitations for after-work drinks and weekend BBQ’s when possible. In addition to enjoying each others’ company, you may build connections that result in your coworkers giving you special assignments or helping you in times of need.

8.  Put the cell phone away:

You are at the office to work, not play on your phone. If an employer sees you have time to play on your phone they won’t think you’re committed to working hard.

9.  Firms often monitor phone and computer activity:

Keep personal items and correspondence off your work phone and computer. This includes searching for a new job through emails you send to your personal network.

10.  Be willing to help even if there’s no benefit to you:

Treating everyone at your firm as competition will only alienate you. People will think you’re untrustworthy and out to get them. Instead, build a reputation as someone who’s helpful.

11.  Focus on what you’re good at and avoid what you aren’t:

Everyone has specific skills they excel at over others. Focus on doing things you’re good at instead of taking on tasks that are weaknesses.

12.  Take care of yourself by looking and being healthy:

For better or worse, appearance plays a big part in success. Someone who is fit and well-groomed will experience more success than another coworker who’s overweight or wearing wrinkled clothing.

13.  Get a good mentor:

A good mentor lobbies on your behalf, guides you in the right direction, and assists in many aspects of your career. Find a good mentor or consider finding a new law firm.

14.  Outside behavior can catch up to you:

Offensive behavior will drift back to the firm and your employers. Bad publicity is a concern for any firm wanting to stay alive. Questionable activities outside of work can cause you to lose your job.

15.  Ask for feedback:

Don’t be afraid to ask your superiors what you could do better. Fixing your weaknesses not only looks good but will help your career.

16.  Choose a job that engages you:

If you don’t like your job there’s a good chance you’re not performing well at it either. Find a new job that engages you so you can perform better.

17.  Jump ship before the boat sinks:

If your law firm is in trouble due to mismanagement or for some other reason, get out. Find a firm that is still growing and moving forward.

18.  Find a place where you fit in:

Not every law firm will be a good fit. Not fitting into the culture of a firm may hold you back from advancement opportunities. Find a place where you feel at home.

19.  Always improve yourself:

When you keep improving yourself, you can become whatever you want. The most successful people are constantly trying to improve themselves in some way or another. So should you.

20.  Show your face at the office:

Even when you work remotely, a company will expect you to stay involved and work hard. It’s important to show your face at the firm, regardless of whether it’s required. When you’re in the office, you are available for questions and you can collaborate with the rest of the team.

21.  Remember you are a product:

Very few lawyers realize they are “products” that are bought, sold, and used by employers. If you are defective or broken, you’ll become expendable and your firm will probably replace you. You need to stay on top of your job and never become complacent.






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