This is a time of change in the legal profession. Last week, the NC Bar Association held a “Convocation on the Future of the Delivery of Legal Services in NC”. You can see a summary of the program on Twitter or Storify by viewing the hashtags #NCFutures #NCBAorg #ABAFutures
Trends that were discussed included access to justice, technology as a disrupter (such as computerized legal services), alternative service providers (Washington State just registered their first Limited Licensed Legal Technicians this month) and succession planning for law firms.
And were your ears burning law students? Because these were the three additional trends discussed – the extraordinary law school debt load, mentoring of young lawyers and unemployment and under-employment of new lawyers.
One speaker suggested a return to classical lawyering while acknowledging that the concept of a full service law firm is dead. There was no shortage of discussion, but unfortunately solutions were not as plentiful.
So my advice for you this summer is very practical.
- Network – meet everyone you can possibly meet, ask as many questions as you can and attend as many events as possible. While there, don’t just talk to your fellow students, but introduce yourself to everyone you meet and exchange business cards and follow up with LinkedIn connections.
- Be a sponge – learn everything you can possibly learn about the practice of law this summer. What are the necessary skills for success? What does your firm culture look like? Talk with your employers about what they see for the future of the profession and their law firms.
- Consider alternative careers with your law degree. I talk to law students frequently who are entrepreneurial minded and already thinking of creative ways to use their JD – such as crisis communications for PR firms, law firm marketing professionals, working with non-profits, and exploring positions in “hot” industries such as health care or technology. As you explore career opportunities, do not let the job title get in the way – if the job requires the skills you have and the skills you trained for and you are interested, pursue the opportunity.
- Engage in discussion with your law school and utilize the services of your Career Services Departments – you will need 21st century interviewing skills and job searching techniques.
- Embrace the community of legal professionals you will meet this summer and call on them for discussions, advice, encouragement and support. Many experienced lawyers want to mentor, sometimes they think their advice falls on deaf ears of millennials. There are differences in the ways our generations communicate. Be attentive to those differences and seek out the advice and counsel of more experienced lawyers. Read the book, The Millennial Lawyer by Ursula Furi-Perry, it’s full of good ideas for making the most of generational differences among lawyers.
- See yourself as part of a team, not an island. Law school reinforces the idea of individual success while much of the world, especially that world outside of traditional law firms, relies on concepts of team. Focus on bringing your best skills to the table, along with the energy, enthusiasm and a growth mindset to take your employer to the next level, not being solely consumed with your own professional development.
- Find our state’s legal thought leaders and follow them on social media. Read what they write and what they suggest you read. I would start with Erik Mazzone, and Hallie Kennedy at the NC Bar Association, Ginny Allen, Jim Dedman, Lee Rosen, Ed Winslow and Laura Collier in private practice.
ABA President Bill Hubbard, a guest speaker at the Convocation said, “We cannot solve problems with the same thinking that caused them.”
Ed Winslow, a partner with Brooks Pierce and another speaker, said “We’ve got the right people and the right tools, I’m optimistic about the future of law”. I look at the talent entering the profession and I am optimistic as well.
Camille Stell is the Vice President of Client Services for Lawyers Mutual. With over 20 years of experience in the legal field, Camille has worked for law firms as a paralegal, legal recruiter and business developer. Contact Camille at 800.662.8843 or Camille@lawyersmutualnc.com.