Becoming a lawyer (solicitor, barrister or attorney) is long, arduous and challenging. It requires fortitude to see things through, and never more so in a market that is still troubled by how it will cope with a liberalised market.
Most people have an idea why they chose law – some clearer and more focused than others – even if they have no or little idea when they embark on their studies (and early career beginnings) if they are going to have the gumption to be a career lawyer.
Law attracts a definite type of person (apologies if this sounds stereotypical). They tend to be opinionated, rational and have a proclivity to want to fight for the underdog (I certainly did).
Even if they are not sure whether they will go into private practice, the majority are driven to succeed and want to make the most of the their studies. Yes, a few will fall off the wagon and abandon law (even at the LPC stage), but it is probably better they discover that law is not for them than deluding themselves otherwise.
But what about self-belief, or rather the lack of it?
Self-belief about what?
- Finishing with a 2:1?
- Completing the LPC with a merit or distinction?
- Or finding a training contract?
Possibly all of these but the place where things start to get rocky is the training contract or early on qualification. This when the self-doubt starts to creep in.
Unfortunately, I have witnessed many a trainee solicitor and newly qualified doubt themself, their career and firm choice over something a training principal or senior said about their work. It may be justified, but some people suffer from a serious sense of humour failure and don’t think about the collateral damage of telling the newbie that their work sucks (or words to that effect).
Alternatively, it might be a client who takes a dislike to a newly qualified that rocks their confidence. Clients can usually smell the fear when you are not very confident and know just when to go behind your back and talk to your boss!
Support is key.
If you going to see your trainees/newly qualifieds fly, then you have to trust to your instincts and let go and accept that sometimes mistakes happen. It is often when they make a mistake that they learn the most. If they feel invincible because no one has critiqued their work then one day their over confidence will see them fall of the edge in a spectacular way.
But self-belief extends right across the spectrum of experience (in private practice).
I know that if I was still practising I would want to know where the firm was headed, how it was going to differentiate its offering in the market and if my area of practice was still flavour of the month. This would not be a case of receiving platitudes or a hearty slap on the back but instead being provided with strategic information to make an informed choice. And, also being able to speak freely about the good and bad stuff of the firm without fear of the consequences.
If you are going to remain committed to the profession and have the necessary self-belief to see things through, then make sure that you focus on:
- Your life plan: where does your career in law fit around the end game?
- The vision that you have for the firm and your position within it.
- Your personal brand (BrandYou).
- Making sure that you leave a legacy that you are proud of.
- Working with like-minded people who can support and encourage you to succeed.
- Finding a coach if necessary to keep you grounded and understand what is really important in life and your career.
- And having a close network (friends and family) that you can talk to about the real life of a lawyer.
Fight your demons.
And don’t be afraid to open up from time to time.
I know that it was terribly important to me to have an outlet away from law so that when I did return to the fold, I appreciated more of what I liked about the job rather than the bits that drove me mad.
But the best advice I can give you is to stay positive.
My mantra that I often say to myself is:
“Think positive because success is positive and that is the side I always want to be on.”
If you don’t believe then it will be harder to maintain that veneer of respectability and you will end up living half a life.
~ Julian Summerhayes ~