As an early career lawyer you will question yourself and what you are doing, feel overwhelmed, experience ups and downs, highs and lows and grow phenomenally.
There are two quotes that have helped me early in my career and I hope they will assist you to navigate your way towards a healthy, happy and balanced career.
“Focus your time on building meaningful relationships. You can be the smartest person in the room, but if nobody wants to work with you, that doesn’t matter.”Canadian fintech firm Mogo
To be successful in law, you need to build and maintain good relationships. In the beginning, it will be hard, you probably won’t know many people. To list a few essentials, I would encourage you to establish a relationship with:
Other early career lawyers: There will be ups and downs and you can reassure and support each other.
At least one experienced mentor in your practice area: Whether this is a more senior practitioner or a barrister, it is always helpful to bounce ideas off peers with a lot of experience who can point you in the right direction.
“Remember that a job, even a great job or a fantastic career, doesn’t give your life meaning, at least not by itself. Life is about what you learn, who you are or can become, who you love and are loved by.”Author and psychotherapist Fran Dorf
Other practitioners who you will work with: This might come as a surprise to some, however, I have found that, the better the relationship you have with your colleagues in your practice area, the more likely you are able to discuss and resolve issues to the satisfaction of all clients.
Support staff: A law practice is a team. The team works best if all members feel valued and respected. Be kind to those who assist you in your work and take time to get to know everyone in the office.
I have found that the better our relationships are with every person who we need to work with, the more success we will have and the more enjoyable our work will become. When we have success for our clients, our own success will follow.
Take the time to actually get to know the people in your team in the office. Be courteous to other solicitors that you know you need to work with. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, attend events, reach out to people, pick up the phone, get involved in a committee or volunteer in your community.
Lawyers consume a lot of energy during the day and working week. We are often so focused on taking care of our clients and fixing their problems that we forget to take care of ourselves. Early career lawyers are particularly susceptible to burnout. It is important to find a balance in your life.
My tips are to:
Plan leave in advance: This will give you something to look forward to and ensure you have time to recharge your batteries.
Prioritise you at least once a day: Try to do at least one thing each day that makes you happy. Try not to compromise on your happy time. For me, I start each day with a gym session, which is my favourite part of the day. Everybody is different, but I encourage you to find that one thing you appreciate in a day and that is for you.
Nurture your personal relationships: Often when I arrive home from work I am completely exhausted and flat. I usually just want to relax and wind down. I encourage you to take five minutes when you first arrive home to acknowledge the loved ones in your life, ask them how their day was, give your pet some attention, engage with them.
We should be putting in just as much effort into greeting our loved ones at the end of a long day as we would greeting our first client appointment for the day. These are, after all, our most important relationships, but also the ones that are easiest to take for granted. This in turn will make you feel more connected and loved by those around you.
A career in the law can be difficult but resilience and persistence, along with surrounding ourselves with the right people and relationships, can help us stay on the path we have chosen. My hope is that these encouraging quotes can be a reminder to those starting out in the law to continue.
This article appears courtesy of the Queensland Law Society Early Career Lawyers Committee Proctor working group, chaired by Adam Moschella (email@example.com).
Rochelle Ryan is an associate at Miller Harris Lawyers.
This story was originally published in Proctor May 2020.