In today’s world, it is difficult to build a stellar legal career because the practice of law is such a competitive industry. One cannot simply produce quality legal work and assume the rest will fall into place. That is too passive a road to take for those who want to achieve legal superstardom.
To become a superstar attorney, you must first decide how you define superstardom. Once you know your goal, identify the keys to reaching that goal. For instance, if your goal is to make as much money as possible, you may want to prioritize your billable hours and your relationship with partners at your firm. Consider asking the partner over coffee what other associates did well, or not so well, so you get to know what that partner’s style and pet peeves are.
Put yourself in charge of your career. Don’t assume someone is out there looking for your best interest. You should ask for opportunities and for feedback. Speak up! Presuming someone at the firm will tell you what you are supposed to be doing is not the superstar way. Take an active role in self-identifying areas for your own improvement. Ask for the assignments you want. And if you get a less than glamourous assignment, be grateful you are getting work, realize it is all a learning experience, and think about how you are contributing to the big picture.
No matter what your goal, an skill important for any attorney to have is the ability to speak up. If you never speak up, a partner may think you are not knowledgeable or, even worse, that you do not care. Be assertive. But don’t be so assertive that partners feel you are challenging them. The art of diplomacy is important for any young attorney. Your job is to make the partner look good. And making the partner shine, makes you shine.
We all know the devil is in the details. If the partner tells you to do something in a certain way and you fail to follow those instructions, the partner will notice. Points will be deducted. If you submit work product with grammatical errors, points will be deducted. Never send work product to a partner that you would not be willing to file with a court. Details are important.
Let me end by saying that you are a bright shining star. But just like any superstar, you too need to take care of yourself. You should have a self-care routine so you do not burn out. Maybe you need to talk to a sibling to help put your life into perspective, or you may need to get together with friends for a few laughs, or maybe you need to get a run in every morning. A superstar needs to practice every day to stay in top form. For you, this means you practice self-care every day. If you don’t have time every day for your self-care, that’s a red flag to make some changes. Do what it takes to stay healthy in a superstar world!