By C. A Emordi (L. L. B, B. L)
As an intern under the chamber attachment at Arthur Obi Okafor’s firm, I started off my legal career with the following nuggets in my legal diary. These 10 statement of fact are prerequisite in starting off in the legal profession :
1. “Have realistic expectations”
Your first job may not be your “dream” job, but if it is going to provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to advance towards your ultimate career goals, do not reject it because it does not meet your expectations perfectly. This is in no way a suggestion that you take just any job you see or that you abandon your goals and accept just any job, but if the job can get you started in the direction you plan to go, seriously consider taking it.
2. “Respect the rules of professional conduct”
A high regard for ethical standards and rules of professional conduct is an absolute necessity for success in the legal profession. The legal profession places a high premium on Integrity, Honesty, Decency, Dedication and Discipline all over the world. A successful lawyer must always represent the high moral values and discipline which distinguishes lawyers in the society. A lawyer should act within the prescriptions of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
3. “Nothing good comes easy”
A young lawyer who is not patient and unwilling to make some great personal sacrifices may never see his efforts bear fruit. Success takes time like all good things. It is advisable for a young lawyer to remove the cloak of complaint and patiently learn at the feet of experienced mentors in their chosen areas of practice.
4. “Participate, Network”
Join and participate fully in your local Bar activities and Young Lawyers Forum (YLF). The more people you meet, the more likely you are to be exposed to new opportunities. These opportunities oftentimes lead to employment.
5. “Dress To Impress”
Fashion and style is something lawyers must take seriously. The legal profession places high premium on dressing in addition to credibility and competence. Dressing appropriately is essential to getting your clients, employers and colleagues to assess you favourably. Your appearance is your first impression and when people seek to hire lawyers, they expect a certain look. Always bear in mind that every person you meet will make assumptions about you based on your appearance.
6. “Let others mentor you”
Learning is best done from the experiences of others. Find people who are in the area of practice you are interested or involved in and reach out to them. Get to know and study them so that you understand what they do and how they built their practice.
7. “Manage your resume”
Your resume should not contain everything; it should only include the best parts of what is relevant to what you do. Your resume should not contain objective statements that are too long. Tell people what you want them to know most about you. Your resume should focus mainly on your achievements. Focus on what you accomplished in your role, not your job description. Your resume should show that you are persistent, resilient, and diligent.
8. “Consider yourself a resource”
Every young lawyer has at least a law degree and has been called to the bar. This means to the average person that you know your onions. Use what you have to your benefit. For instance, you can start something legal online to benefit your local community and you can work with legal aid or other pro bono causes. If you populate the website with articles on many legal topics, it will attract the attention of persons interested in legal matters, or who need solutions to legal problems. Engaging in this kind of activity will afford you the opportunity to stay abreast of legal topics, constantly work on your analytical skills, and enhance your presentation skills and resume. Always ask yourself: “what are the skills I need that I don’t have?”
9. “Specialize “
A lawyer is a better asset to himself and society if he can demonstrate excellent skills in a niche within the profession. It makes you significantly more valuable and gives you potential to attract more clients. If you are known as a specialist in a particular area, for instance; medical negligence cases, your value will greatly increase.
10. “Take your employer’s office as your own”
Any aspect of legal practice is a “business enterprise”. A young lawyer must become part of the “business” and relate properly with the employer and clients. This is important in building a career and a reputation. Without owning the business and treating the “business” and clients’ right, it will be difficult to build a reputation and develop in your chosen area of practice.