Your firm’s investment in your professional development may seem patchy — even non-existent. Fortunately, there’s more than one way for young lawyers to find the training they need to grow.
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For many young lawyers, partnership seems elusive — something you’re told you want but not sure how long it will take. It can also be difficult to know exactly what training or experiences you need to make it there. Even more frustrating? When you feel stagnant because you’re not learning enough from the partners with whom you currently work. What are you supposed to do if your practice group or firm isn’t helping you grow?
Before dusting off that resume and looking for other opportunities, here are three ideas on how to get the training you want where you are.
1. Proactively Ask for What You Need
While seemingly too obvious to include as a tip, the trick here is knowing what you need. This takes an investment of time on your part to honestly assess your current skills and experiences, and come up with a list of the skills you want to develop and the new experiences you want to have — before you ask.
For example, if you are a litigator, you may want more depositions, an arbitration, or trial experience. If you’re a transactional lawyer, perhaps you want to handle more deals of a particular size or more exposure to technology transactions.
If you draw a blank as to the type of experiences you may want to seek, peruse the firm bios of some of the partners at your firm. What type of work have they done? What type of clients do they service? You can also seek the advice of a mentor inside or outside your firm for ideas.
(By the way, if you think this is a lot of work, what makes you think your firm or a particular partner should be proactively doing this for you?)
After figuring out some of the skills you want to develop as a young lawyer, and the varied experiences you want to have, the next step is to ask the right person at your firm. Consider who has the work to give. Consider with whom you have a strong relationship or you want to work. Again, a mentor inside the firm can be a great resource. Your firm may also have someone who is in charge of the professional development and retention of associates.
2. Check Out External Resources
Consider researching external resources for training and development that you can take to your firm or seek on your own. For example, trial lawyers may seek deposition training from the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. There might be a specific conference or summit that may be helpful for your development. Of course, external resources like these typically have a cost.
Local bar associations may also be a great resource. Personally, as a young lawyer, the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers was an amazing resource. They offered tours through courthouses, opportunities to lunch with the local judiciary, a deal boot camp for transactional lawyers and a trial skills boot camp for litigators.
3. Consider a New Client
If your firm doesn’t have a current opportunity to give you, consider creating one yourself through a new client. This may be the most difficult but very effective. One way, if the firm is supportive, is to take on a pro bono case. While you serve a client in need, you will have opportunities to sharpen your skills. Another way, of course, is to bring in a client or new matter of your own.
Of course, if you have tried all of these and still feel you’re stagnating, a new opportunity might be what you need. Here’s a process to help you figure it out.
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YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY MENTORS
60-Minute Mentoring for Lawyers and Law Students: Small Commitments, Quick Rewards. In this easy-to-use guide, Amy Timmer and Matt Cristiano explain why having more than one mentor is essential for new lawyers — and they set you up to make the most of mentor relationships. The book explains how 60-minute mentoring works (versus traditional mentoring); finding mentors; questions to ask; how to plan for mentoring sessions; and much more. This helpful guide is packed with sample questions, anecdotes and checklists.