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DTCI: Invest in yourself to build practice and reputation

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kalamaros-dtciOften, I am asked by younger lawyers what they can do to advance themselves in the profession, both in their firms and in the marketplace. I tell them that – first of all – merely aging will not get them ahead. Nor will performing merely adequate work.

We have all noticed that there are a lot of lawyers. On top of that, there are a lot of lawyers with less work than they would like. Lawyering is a business and is controlled by traditional rules of commerce: supply, demand, pricing, quality, branding. Lawyers are the product. They are the brand.

So, even if you are in a firm, and you have work and you do a good job, that may not be enough. It may be the professional equivalent of treading water. If you want to advance, you have to do more. You have to invest in yourself.

This means recognizing that you yourself are the most important factor in advancing your career, and that you yourself have to take action. It is hard, and it is not free (in terms of money or time), but it is worth it in the long run.

How do you invest in yourself?

Read. Read about things related to work. Read the cases, read the rules. Read the advance sheets. Set your legal research filter and run a search every week. Read the daily email from Indiana Lawyer, both the reported cases and the not-for-publication. Don’t just read the articles, read the cases. Don’t just read the opinion, read who the lawyers are and where they practice. Read who the judges at the trial court level are and remember how they decide. Read who the appellate judges are and how they decide. Read the newspaper. Read professional magazines, apps and websites. Read the rest of Indiana Lawyer. Read Res Gestae, Trial, For the Defense, ABA Journal. Read law reviews. Read treatises in your discipline. Read the CLE materials; don’t just put them on the shelf.

Get admitted. Get admitted to federal District courts. Get admitted to federal circuits. Get admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court. Get admitted before administrative boards. Be ready to go where the work is.

Join. Join at least one county bar association. Pick the county in which you most frequently practice. Join professional organizations – one at the state level and one at the national. Look for discounts for younger lawyers and combined memberships between state and national organizations. Also consider joining nonlawyer organizations as a source of work through connections and for name recognition in your markets.

Participate. After you have joined these organizations, participate. Get to know other members. Go to events. Get on a committee or two. Become an officer. Write an article. Speak. Attend, speak, and write with Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum.

Be efficient. Be smart. Yes, this all takes time and money. Often, time is harder to set aside. It takes time away from your work on cases. It takes time away from your Internet surfing, it takes time away from your free time. It may even take time away from family. So set your priorities. That is part of the investment. By the same token, be smart about your efforts. Try to integrate this investment into the rest of your life. Read the legal material instead of John Grisham at the beach. Take a vacation that coincides with a convention or a CLE at a resort suitable for your family. Get your CLE where you can network. Speaking at a CLE event may get you free admission for the rest of the program. Be efficient.

Spending time and money to cultivate yourself into a quality product is the most highly personal investment you can make. You are the product. You are the brand. No one should be more concerned about developing the quality of that product than you. No one should be more concerned about developing your brand than you. Invest in yourself. Make yourself more valuable. You will see the return on investment.•

__________

Mr. Kalamaros is a partner in Hunt Suedhoff Kalamaros and is a member of the DTCI board of directors. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.
 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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