Susan Smith Blakely

Young Women Lawyers: Help in Transitioning to a New Firm

 

The legal field is very dynamic these days and has been that way for awhile.   Most lawyers change practice venues multiple times in their careers, and research shows that millennials will change jobs four times in their first decade out of college.

Up until the 1990's, lawyers often stayed with one -- or possibly two -- firms most of their careers.  Sounds hard to believe now, but it's true.  However, the boom economic days of the 90's saw law firms grow in size and spheres of influence exponentially, and lawyers started moving around like bees in a hive to follow the money and the power.

So, you should not be afraid to change law firms or practice settings if you are not satisfied with what you are experiencing.  Sure, it is a big pain to research job openings and alternative settings, revise your resume, contact a headhunter, and to be "on" for one interview after another.  Exhausting, really.

But it is far better than staying at a job that makes you miserable.  And, I think more of you are miserable than want to admit it.

I heard a law firm partner quoted recently saying, "I would not want to be an associate lawyer today."  There is a reason for that.  The practice has become so specialized that entry level law jobs too often consist of being tethered to a computer reviewing complex regulations and documents and little else --- until eyes begin to bleed.  It bares little resemblance to what recent law school graduates thought "acting like a lawyer" was going to be like.  It can be a huge disappointment after paying a fortune to become one.

Law firms should not let this happen to their employees, but they do.  Somebody has to do that work, and most law firms do not care enough to add variety and interest to those boring and tedious tasks.  Too often they treat entry level lawyers as fungible goods.  The result it that lawyers leave for what they hope are greener pastures.  Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it does not.

And sometimes it is absolutely necessary.  If a job starts changing who you are, get out.  No job is worth changing your personality and using coping mechanism that are not good for you.  Move on.  Save yourself.

If you fall into any of these categories, get busy.  Research shows that February to April are the best hiring months for law firms.  So, if you are thinking of making a change, it might be time to dust off that resume and get started.

Once you transition to that new job, you will need some help in adjusting to new leadership and a new culture.  This article will help you get through the first critical weeks.  Some highlights are:

  • Be Friendly/Make the Effort;
  • Be Open to New Procedures;
  • Ask Questions and Get Advice;
  • Don't Be Afraid to Give Your Opinion; and
  • Be Confident.

And, most important, understand that transitions take time.  Don't judge the job by the first few weeks.

The aging process works great for wine and cheese.  It may be the same for new jobs.

Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and an award-winning, nationally-recognized author, speaker and consultant on issues related to young women lawyers, young women law students and young women interested in careers in the law.  She is author of Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2009), and Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today's Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012), which addresses the work-life struggle for women lawyers and includes twelve profiles of women who have successfully transitioned from one practice setting to another.  Her third book in the series, Best Friends at the Bar:  Top-Down Leadership for Women Lawyers, focuses on the responsibilities of law firm leaders and was released by Wolters Kluwer Law & Business in 2015.

 Ms. Blakely’s new book for ALL young lawyers, What Millennial Lawyers Want:  A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice, will be released by Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers in the summer of 2018.

 Ms. Blakely frequently speaks at colleges and universities, law schools, law firms and law organizations, and she has been featured in media including Corporate Counsel Magazine, the ABA Journal, the LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, Women Lawyers Journal (NAWL), DC Spotlight, Lawyerist.com, Daily Muse, Lawyer and Statesman, Law.com, Georgetown Law Magazine, Legal Toolkit Podcast, and Huffington Post Business.  Ms. Blakely also is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at conferences on women's issues in business and the law profession, and she has been a featured speaker at the US Department of Justice, Civil Division.  She is the recipient of the Ms. JD 2015 "Sharing Her Passion Award" and the Lawyer Monthly “Women in Law Award 2016”for her work on behalf of women in the law. 

 Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she was a teaching fellow. She is a member of the CoachSource global network of leadership coaches and is certified as a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy.   For more information, please visit www.bestfriendsatthebar.com. 

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