A learned colleague said to me, ‘why do you say the profession is an ocean of opportunities, yet lawyers crowd themselves at the shore doing the same thing?’ And I say the possibilities of being a legal professional are endless and limitless, if only you make use of the career options available to a legal professional in the 21st century.
Discover yourself: A legal professional venturing into the legal industry with intent to succeed ought to understand that ‘no one’, can decide their fate in the industry other than his/herself in the profession. Discover your own path, pay attention to areas of law that incite your talents and passion not necessarily litigation, and improve your practice in that area of law, thereby carving a niche for yourself.
Mentorship: This means approaching a senior colleague who does better in an area of law that incites your passion, and interest; start up mentorship relationship and work closely with him/her to build your skill set in that area.
Networking and social mingling: The importance of networking amongst like minds cannot be overemphasised; neither do I need to explain the meaning of networking and social mingling amongst learned friends.
If indeed, the future is in the hands of the young legal professionals of the 21st century, then we need to do things differently from what obtained hitherto. With the coming of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), the use of social media on android phones and other electronic devices, has made networking and social mingling between colleagues more seamless than it used to be.
Packaging and branding: The appearance of a legal professional is EVERYTHING. If value is to be attached to legal services rendered, then a legal professional must look the part. You cannot show up dressed like a lawyer in frustration with a black-turn-brown suit, white-brown TM Lewin shirt, and shoes begging to be thrown away, and then expect to charge a client N1,000,000.00 and be taken seriously. www.tmlewin.co.uk/shirts
My point, if you want to be viewed as a brand worth value, then it is duty borne on any legal professional aspiring to be successful in the industry, to look the part.
Honesty and integrity: Being a member of the honourable profession, the word of a lawyer ought to be his/her bond. Lose your reputation on sharp practice, and it will take years to regain such trust. The seed of integrity once sown at the early stages of practice, and nourished during growth, will bring out the best in a lawyer. It is this integrity that will be your watchword in your absence.
Patience, diligence, commitment, perseverance, and smart work: Smart work never killed anyone; a legal professional ought to be patient, diligent, and committed either in learning the ropes or rendering legal service. Persevere through the challenges of today for the benefit of a better future.
Explore online opportunities: There is no limit to the online opportunities available for a legal professional. Legal professionals can build career development by engaging in online seminars/counsels, one can even create online platforms like a legal web blog that would address the plight of legal professionals in the industry, and many more.
Earn alternative income: It is advisable to live within our means. If you cannot afford it, don’t buy it. That aside, a legal professional can venture into a legitimate business on the side, not degrading to the profession, to earn extra income to augment the monthly salary/wages.
Avoid self-doubt and fear of the unknown: The legal profession is not for the shy or timid. So avoid self-doubt and fear of the unknown. Once you are convinced on a particular matter, even if no one believes in it, or critics don’t accept it, go ahead and get it done, no one can see your journey better than you.
Explore the possibility of Alternative Dispute Resolution: Legal professionals ought to be fair and truthful upfront with their clients. Counsel while representing clients ought to assess the facts against the law, eliminate issues that are not contentious, and restrict themselves strictly to contentious issues. Even where the issues are contentious, look at it and see if it is still possible for the matter to be resolved amicably: not all briefs have to get to court.
Please note that the outlined attributes are not exhaustive career options for legal professionals, but a start. Take a step in the right direction, and you will be surprised how far you can go.