Law Students and Young Lawyers

Believe in Yourself or Perish!

I have something important to say.  It is so important that I will say it three different ways in the hope that those of you who are too busy trying to achieve your ridiculous hourly billing target to do anything other than skim read will not miss it. Here I go:

  1. It is virtually impossible to thrive in the legal profession unless you are your best psychological self. Survive, perhaps. Earn a living, probably. But thrive? In order to do that, you need to be the best that you can be.
  2. If you do not believe in yourself, the legal profession will eat you up and spit you out.
  3. Unless you are one of the lucky few who have it all figured out before you start in the profession, work on developing your self-confidence or prepare to be squashed. And then squished. And then squashed again.

If you do not believe in yourself, you do not know how to handle difficult people. You know, partners and self-important senior associates who say things like, “why can’t you have that done by yesterday?”  Or, opposing counsel who bellow: “I have been practicing law for 30 years and I have never seen anyone agree to what you are suggesting.”

Until I developed my confidence, I did not have a client base. With a client base,  comes  control over your professional life. You can fire clients who annoy you.  You can say no to work that you do not want to do. You can delegate work that is going to keep you up all night.

Without a client base, you are  never in control of your own professional life, and if you are not in control of your professional life, you cannot be in control of your personal life.

When you do not believe in yourself, you live in fear. Common fears in the legal profession include imposter syndrome, fear of networking, and fear of public speaking. Also, without confidence, it is difficult to promote yourself, either within your firm or with clients. And if you think that the meek shall inherit the law firm, you have not been hanging around law firms for very long.

The good news is that this stuff can be learned.

My advice is to actively work at building your confidence. Take courses on public speaking. Go to a psychologist and work out your baggage. Read self-help books.  

The rewards of learning to believe in yourself and project confidence are many. Your career path in the profession will improve. Participation in marketing events will be fun. You will be more likely to be able to develop a client base, which translates into money,  job security and  the ability to pick and choose your files.   

Get working on it. It is more important than just about anything else that you can be doing in your professional life. Really.

This article was originally published by Law360 Canada, part of LexisNexis Canada Inc.

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