I have never considered myself to be the best person to give career advice. No doubt there are others out there with far more experience than me, and who have achieved far more than I have in the early stages of their career. In fact, I would not suggest that I have "achieved" at this point; a career in law is very much "the long-game", and I have barely reached the first drinks break.
Despite that, sharing what we have learned along the way can be of great value to someone and you should never underestimate what you may bring to a conversation.
So, how you can get the most out of those crucial first few years of practice? Here are three secrets I have for beginning to build the foundations of a fulfilling career, based on my early experiences.
1. Be genuine
There is certainly merit in simply being a good person. While it may be a difficult thing in a world driven by social media likes and peer approval, you will get more from your day if you have built genuine relationships with your clients, referrers and colleagues. If you can build open and honest relationships with those around you, you will learn more and you will produce better work.
I have been fortunate to have built strong and open relationships with our clients. From those relationships, I have been able to understand what is important to them and their business so that I can help them achieve better outcomes.
2. Find mentors willing to champion you
While you may consider it a given, not all junior lawyers will have the opportunity to work alongside partners or senior lawyers. And not all partners or senior lawyers will sit with them and take the time to work through that shocking first draft of an advice, or to to explain why things are as they are.
But find those who will. It is a very unique thing, and you should always seek out those people willing to take the time. In my view, at least, no one is ever too busy to take half an hour to be a mentor.
I have been very fortunate through every step of my early career to have had mentors, at every level, willing to invest their time in me and I continue to be supported by them.
3. Don't listen to the marketing pitch
This goes a little further than finding great mentors – find a great firm.
There is a lot of noise in the market about one firm being more flexible, more engaging, or more "balanced" than the others. Do your research and be critical of the marketing spin. Sometimes it is not always the powerhouse brands that will be the best for you and your career, nor will they be the ones to give you that illusive work-life balance.
I have been incredibly fortunate at DWF to have found a balance – it is a business that genuinely encourages its people, at all levels of the business, to succeed, contribute and think outside the box. It is that openness that is seen at all levels of the business, and which positively defines our day-to-day experiences.
I am fortunate to work for great people, in a great business, within a great environment. In my view, you will lay a strong foundation for a long and enjoyable career if you make it your mission to seek out the people and a business that supports you. From there, you will be challenged, encouraged and supported. I can certainly say that I have had an enjoyable career thus far because of those contributing factors.