Your occupation is a major life investment, promising the possibility of intellectual and financial reward, as well as real emotional satisfaction. However, many lawyers simply go with the flow, reacting to opportunities as they arise. Yet having a clear vision of what you want to achieve in your working life will provide a solid foundation and guide for determining your career path.
Planning ahead is key. This can involve looking at where you want to be in five, ten or even twenty years’ time. Several fundamental questions need to be addressed to gain a good understanding of what you are aiming for professionally and to plan for it accordingly. Lifestyle ambitions, personal values and the relative importance of income are significant issues to be included in assessing what kind of career you want to have.
Fortunately, more than ever before, the law offers a range of options for those with varying interests. A wide variety of practice fields, from finance to human rights, intellectual property to dispute resolution, are available. Start by asking yourself what motivates and inspires you, which fields of practice appeal to you most and why. Learn as much as you can about the areas of practice that interest you. What do they entail and will they chime well with your personal values and how you like to work? Legal practice often involves considerable intellectual demands, personal responsibilities and long working hours. These are easier to manage when you are fired with a real enthusiasm for your subject. It will also help you to meet like-minded individuals among your colleagues and clients.
Assess your talents and abilities. What are you naturally good at? Some skills we are born with, others we acquire through education and training. If you need additional training for your selected field, make sure you get it. Marrying your natural abilities with the necessary professional training will put you in a position of strength. ‘A full repertoire of professional training is beneficial in securing your dream job,’ advises RedLaw Director, Jonathan Benjamin. ‘Skills development, such as public speaking can also give you a distinct advantage.’
Once you have a clear picture of the kind of work you want, you can better examine the options for securing a position that is consistent with your objective. Make a dossier of where you are most likely to find it and how. Good networking can boost your chances of securing your goal. Attending educational events and joining professional groups will help you to gain greater knowledge of your chosen area and make useful contacts. If you can, find an experienced person with whom you can discuss your career and who can give you good advice and act as a mentor. Learn all you can from any legal recruitment consultant you meet, as they will have up-to-date knowledge of the market. ‘Our legal recruitment consultants strive to understand your motivations and aspirations’ Jonathan continues. ‘We can build a relationship of support with you that will last throughout your career.’
Those who have already embarked on a career will need to address these same issues. They may also have to examine how transferable their skills will be and what changes in working conditions will have to be factored into their ongoing career plan. But whatever stage you are in your career, taking control and having a clear idea of what you want to achieve should help to relieve anxiety, increase your confidence and improve your chances of having a fulfilling professional life.