Often, 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.