What do I wish someone had told me when I was a first year lawyer? What do you wish someone had told you?

Here is my current thinking on what I wish someone had told me. Note: we did not have computers or social media when I was a first year lawyer, so some in the list below are updated to today:

  1. You may think your education was completed when you finished law school. In truth it has only begun and you are moving into a more important and challenging phase of learning.
  2. Passing the bar and later when you make partner are events. Being an outstanding lawyer and outstanding partner are achievements.
  3. Find your purpose for being a lawyer, your passion and your core values.
  4. Never be content. Always strive to get better.
  5. Create a plan each year that includes what you want to learn.
  6. Determine your top 5 Strengths using StrengthsFinder and use those to develop your plan.
  7. Break your plan down to 90 days plans to be more accountable.
  8. Your trusty assistant is a great resource.
  9. Become focused on your contacts. Spend 80% of your time with your top 20% of your contacts.
  10. Treat everyone in your office the same way you treat your best clients.
  11. Focus as much, or more, on what your clients do, as you focus on what you do.
  12. Learn to ask good questions and listen intently.
  13. Having your own clients is the best security you will ever have.
  14. Don’t buy into the myth that you are too young to develop business.
  15. Also, don’t buy into the myth that the only way to develop business is the way some senior lawyer did it. Figure out what will work for you.
  16. Learn to become comfortable outside your comfort zone.
  17. Make client development and building relationships with clients part of your every day habits. There should be no such thing as random client development events.
  18. Build your network of “weak tie” relationships as broadly as you can. Make sure, without coming across as a salesman, that your “weak ties” know what you do and that you do it well.
  19. Learn how to use the social media tools to build and expand your relationships.
  20. Make sure your clients know how much you care. Never take a client for granted.
  21. Find something you love to do just for your own enjoyment. You will be serving clients, your family and others. You will only serve others effectively if you also serve yourself.
  22. Get out from behind your computer. Sitting in front of your computer all day will exhaust you and will prevent you from effectively building relationships with your clients, potential clients and referral sources.
  23. Be insatiable to figure out what might impact your clients before other lawyers and your clients see it coming.
  24. To be successful you will have to learn to lead, delegate and supervise. You can’t make rain by yourself.
  25. Pay it forward. Always help younger lawyers develop their career, as lawyers have helped you develop yours.