Strategies for Success in your First Job

  1. Select a practice wisely. Particularly if you anticipate transitioning out of your organization in the near future, make as informed a decision as possible about the type of practice that will most likely enable you to transition successfully into the work you wish to do down the road.

  2. Excel at the basics. Whether you remain at your organization for the long term, or transition to a new position at some point, it will serve you well to excel at your job. Provide excellent work product and work ethic, meet all deadlines, respond promptly, seek and accept feedback, be eager to pitch in to get the work done, and demonstrate respect for everyone with whom you work. Learn the criteria for becoming a leader within your organization – by knowing what is expected, you will be able to demonstrate the qualities needed to succeed.

  3. Cultivate mentors/sponsors. Go beyond formal mentor programs to cultivate relationships with senior attorneys with interests similar to yours and with the ability to assist you in advancing your career. Maintain mentor relationships you’ve developed in other settings as well, including law school and prior work experiences.

  4. Be visible. Avoid the temptation to communicate only through technology. Meet in person with attorneys and clients as often as possible. Attend meetings and events to which you are invited.

  5. Engage within the organization outside of your paid work. Take on pro bono matters, assist with client pitches, author practice group newsletter articles, mentor junior attorneys, and join committees. Taking on these responsibilities will advance your reputation as a team player, will further your personal relationships and enhance your likeability within the firm. Pro bono takes on even greater value if you are in private practice and contemplating a move to the public sector.

  6. Engage outside of the organization. Get involved with community organizations, bar associations, and your schools’ alumni associations. You never know when a connection you make will turn into a client, employer, mentor or colleague.

  7. If you are in large firm practice, avoid the golden handcuffs. Most attorneys who transition out of large firms accept positions for which they earn less (and sometimes significantly less) than their law firm salaries. If you are contemplating a transition out of large firm practice, keep in mind the salary ranges for positions you hope to obtain down the road and manage your money accordingly.

  8. Assess exit opportunities (but do it subtly). If you are considering transition opportunities, keep your eyes and ears open to the exit options explored and taken by fellow attorneys at the organization. Learn about career paths of alumni of your organization. Take calls from headhunters to hear about opportunities they are promoting.


Last updated-May 2022