As discussed last week, navigating the current legal market and making decisions about the future of your career can seem rather daunting. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to decide which changes to make and how you should make them.
1. Evaluate the Market
Before you performed any science experiment in school, you had to gather background information. Why wouldn’t we take the same approach to changes in our career? Consider the attorneys who have recently been “let go” at your firm, those who have moved from one firm to another within your practice area and large advancements or downfalls in the practice you are interested in. Factors similar to these aid you in developing a clear picture of the market as it relates to your career and ensuring you aren’t stepping into the path of a landslide. Utilizing publications such as American Lawyer Daily and, more specifically, The Churn is key to keeping abreast of the current legal market.
Another website I suggest you take advantage of is HG.org. HG.org has a truly helpful section of their website where you can research an area of law and locate a list of related organizations and articles where you might discover unique offshoots for your practice. The site also shows the differences and similarities in the area when practicing in the United States versus internationally.
2. Use Your Resources
In this day in time it’s no longer all about WHAT you know, it’s more about WHO you know. That’s right, I’m talking about networking. Networking is not a merely a way of getting a new job, it is also a great way to gather information. Unless you work at a boutique firm, your firm probably has lawyers who do the kind of work you are considering. What would it hurt to ask them about their work? If you do not have access to such attorneys in your office or firm, it would be beneficial to consult friends and colleagues who do have access to get answers to your questions. Or, take time to network at local political and social functions which are frequented by area attorneys and familiarize yourself with those who practice in your area of interest. Spearhead a fundraiser for the cause and invite those attorneys to assist you, then ask questions during your meetings. With this approach, you may also acquire an ally at that law firm should you ever decide to leave your current firm.
You should also consider calling your other legal contacts who are not necessarily attorneys. Any legal recruiter who knows the ropes would be able to give you with an idea of what you are getting yourself into with this change as well as provide unique insight from attorneys with whom they have worked, including the good and the bad aspects of the practice area. Your seasoned law school professors can also give you information from personal experience, study or contacts about the area of law you are considering.
3. Gather Clientele
Let’s start with the easiest way to gather clients, shall we? You already have clients in your primary practice area and they obviously like your work or they wouldn’t be your client. Contact your existing clients to let them know to better serve their needs, you have expanded your practice to include “XYZ” work and would be honored to assist them in any matters related to both areas of law.
For bringing in new matters, I would suggest speaking with other attorneys in the practice area to let them know you have expanded your practice and would be glad to assist them. It would also be a good idea to speak with the chair of the practice (if there is one) and let him/her know that you are interested in helping with any new matters that come available.
Another great way to gather clients is through social media. Not only will advertising your new skill on social media networks attract new clients, it will also show others (and possibly potential employers) that you see the benefits of expanding and investing in personal growth, which is never a bad trait to market. You should also continue to implement any previous paths you were using to bring in clients.
A Different Direction
Truthfully, another change you may want to make in your career is a change in scenery. You may feel a sense of loyalty to your current firm, but you must ask yourself, “Is this firm giving me the support and platform I need? Am I getting looked over by potential clients because my law firm is not well-known for the work I do? Will I ever get to the level of seniority I desire at this law firm?”
These are all very good questions to which you owe yourself answers. However, like the old saying goes, sometimes it is impossible to see the forest for the trees. If you would like to find out which law firms are best known for in your particular practice area, you may consider visiting Vault.com under the “Rankings” tab or the Chambers and Partners website. I would also advise you call my office if you desire information about law firms that only someone who has worked with them for 20+ years could provide you. Please feel free to use any or all of these tips you find to be appropriate to your situation. Should you determine my services would be helpful to you, whether it is for gathering information or otherwise, I would appreciate a conversation with you.