Our past few blog posts have focused on legal topics and advice, but the profession extends well-beyond the courtroom. Professional engagement is very important to us. I am the editor for the Litigation Section of the Atlanta Bar Association. A younger colleague of ours wrote a very engaging article for our newsletter. We wanted to share it with you on our blog too! (It’s also hard to believe where the times goes because I’ve now been in practice for over a decade.) In any event, enjoy……
Professional Development as a Young Attorney
Career trajectory is a constant thought for young professionals entering the legal field. One way to combat those perpetual thoughts of wondering where you will be in the next couple of years is to start with the end goal in mind. Consider the legacy you would like to leave behind when you decide to retire the suit jacket for flip-flops and sand castles. A simple question to ask yourself is whether you would like to be remembered as the lawyer that passed the bar and no one ever heard of again, or one that showed their zest to give back through getting involved and staying involved throughout the legal community.
We all know how important it is to be responsible for your career after graduating law school and passing the bar. However, that involves more than landing a job and getting settled in. While it is important to find employment and gain as many valuable skills as possible, it is equally important to involve yourself in activities outside of work that align with your interest. As young professionals, we tend to focus our attention heavily on becoming great lawyers. We make a great effort to be the first ones to arrive at work and the last ones to leave. Newly admitted attorneys and recent graduates must also understand the value and importance of involvement outside of your job.
As a young professional, getting involved can be somewhat frightening. You may feel as though your lack of experience somehow deems you unqualified. There may be confusion about who to ask or where to go, but I can assure you that there’s an organization or committee suitable to your interest. Typically, an organization’s website will list their upcoming events and board member’s contact information. I challenge anyone looking to become involved to attend at least one event per month before settling on not becoming involved at all. The last event I attended was for informational purposes only, however, I was unexpectedly invited to become a member of the executive committee. Things manage to happen when you put yourself in the right place at the right time.
Becoming involved, as a young professional, could mean a number of things depending upon whom you are speaking with. Your association does not have to be limited to legal organizations. It may involve becoming a committee member on a local school board, fine art society or even grass roots organizations in your community. It could be as simple as reaching out to individuals on professional social sites to meet for coffee or attending local or state bar events.
Also, there are many organizations and bar associations that are involved in the efforts to improve diversity and equality in the legal field that may be of interest to new lawyers. There are many organizations that offer free training and webinars to lawyers that are free of charge.
Another benefit of getting involved as a new lawyer is the ability to connect with people that are further along in their careers than you or practicing in an area of law that may align with your career goals. It is a great pleasure to speak with senior attorneys and mid to junior level attorneys that can warn of the pitfalls and how to avoid making certain mistakes. Whether you are interested in finding a mentor, attending a happy hour, or listening to a panel discussion, I can assure you that there is an organization awaiting you with open arms.
More importantly, the best part of getting involved as a young lawyer is that you might have the opportunity to help someone in need of your services. It has been a great pleasure of mine to volunteer with organizations that provide legal services to the underprivileged to help them navigate the legal system. Also, the Georgia bar urges all lawyers to provide at least 50 hours annually of pro bonowork to low income Georgians. I believe that there is no better way to complete your hours than by dedicating your time and service to an organization that is committed to giving back to those in need.
Finally, my hope is that all of my fellow young professionals will join at least one local or state bar organization and become an active member. Attend events and rest assured that any organization or association’s most valuable assets are its members. It is through you that all things are possible!
As always, please consider us a resource and friend whether you a young professional, attorney, or just have a question about the law here in Georgia. We’re happy to help! My contact is firstname.lastname@example.org or (404) 566-8964.