What does it take to be successful in the field of law? With how quickly technology and other trends are shifting, this question may seem more difficult to answer than ever before. Recently, former partner Doug wright hklaw at Holland & Knight and President of Holland & Knight Law Group David Mills sat down with us to discuss his unique perspective on the current state of the legal industry and what sets apart those who are succeeding from those who aren’t. This exclusive interview will provide valuable insight into ways you can improve your law practice – especially if you’re looking to rise through the ranks to partner at your firm.
Advice for first-year associates
Be prepared to act independently. As a first-year associate, you will be expected to perform many of your own tasks and research projects from start to finish. It’s important that you can manage your time effectively and learn how to set priorities on your own. If you take direction well, feel comfortable reaching out for help when needed, and understand that imperfection is okay when it comes to learning new skills, then acting independently will not present as much of an issue for you. Learn how to ask good questions and get answers in order to become more efficient with each passing day. It’s always beneficial to work quickly but carefully—speed without accuracy isn’t going to net you any points!
Advice for partners
Before I became an attorney, I was working in investment banking, which was very similar to being a partner in an accounting firm. The biggest thing for partners to understand is that you’re not going to be at your firm forever. A lot of partners make their decisions based on what they want from their firm now, but you should really be asking yourself what you want from your career down the road—you don’t want to lose sight of that.
Make sure you’re enjoying yourself, making money and gaining valuable skills—those are your most important factors when it comes to deciding whether or not to stick around as a partner.
Advice for students who want to work in your field
Before you say adios to law school, there are some things you should do to prep for life after law school. First, make sure you have applied to every possible job opportunity that fits your skill set and geographical preferences. Second, continue expanding your professional network by taking any opportunities (such as volunteering) that will get you out of your comfort zone and allow you to build relationships with people who can help further your career in ways outside of those listed on your resume.
Finally, use your time between graduation and starting a new job to take care of any lingering loose ends from law school—this includes tasks like getting transcripts notarized or picking up diplomas from other schools—so that there is less for you to worry about once work starts!
Next steps after you have graduated from law school
It is not as easy to get legal work experience as it was when I graduated from law school twenty years ago. Clerkships are harder to obtain, but they are still possible. To give yourself some job security, it is important to gain valuable experience. Volunteer or try to take an externship if you can in order to build your network and learn more about practicing law.
I would also start reaching out to firms, either cold calling or doing informational interviews with law firms that interest you. If you don’t have any contacts inside of companies and organizations then work on meeting professionals through social networking sites and attending professional events in your area.
Starting out in an unfamiliar setting can be intimidating, but learning how to succeed while navigating new territory is a valuable skill. The former partner of Holland & Knight, who asked not to be named for his interview, knows how important it is to leverage your existing strengths as you learn new things and make mistakes along the way.
Holland & Knight was my first firm job coming out of law school, he said. You have to be willing to take advice from people who have been there before you and ask questions about what you don’t understand. Your training comes from building a foundation based on that knowledge.