On February 8, 2018, I co-chaired the program for the Young Lawyers Division at the Ontario Bar Association. Titled: “How to Thrive as a Young Lawyer in Today’s Market”.
Erin Cowling from FlexLegal spoke about marketing. Cowling recently won an award for having one of the best legal blogs in Canada. Cowling recommended that we first think about “who is our audience?” Is it potential clients or other lawyers. Are you hoping to get referrals or to get job opportunities. For example, an estate litigator may consider marketing herself to an estate solicitor.
Cowling then spoke about using social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and blogging. For LinkedIn, she encouraged people to:
- update their LinkedIn profiles
- include publications and awards
- use a professional photograph
- interact with others
- post interesting articles for your network.
Cowling also encouraged us to praise the accomplishments of other people, rather than just bragging about yourself.
For Twitter, Cowling recommended:
- Tweet original content
- Tweet other people’s content that your followers would like
- interact with other people on Twitter (in fact Cowling and I first met on Twitter before meeting in person)
- Tweet regularly
- share photographs from events
- use Google alerts related to your practice to find interesting articles to share
- ignore the trolls
For Blogging, Cowling recommended quality over quantity. Cowling personally blogs once per month. She also connects her blog to the website lawblogs.ca so more people can find her. As always, she reminded us to follow the Rules of Professional Conduct when using social media.
Lynne Lawson and Mary Paterson spoke about business development. Lynne was called to the bar in 1988 and practiced in insurance defence. Paterson is a commercial litigator at Osler. She is a winner of the Benchmark Litigation Under 40 Hot List 2017. For file intake, they recommended asking the client (A) what does success look like and (B) what is the budget. Immediately alert the client if the budget changes. Pleasing the client often means winning the case, on time, inside the budget.
After file intake, do an initial opinion. In the initial opinion talk about what the best probable outcome for the case. Identify further information that is needed. Do you need to retain an expert? Whose responsibility is it to get the information? What is the cost? The initial opinion is essentially a map for the case. You need to tell the client if new information changes the opinion. Most importantly, if a client makes a decision, do not argue with them. Once the decision is made, your role turns from advisor to advocate.
Paterson uses a cheat sheet in her cases. Every file has a sheet that contains: the cause of action, the elements of the cause of action, witnesses, key cases that matter, and the probable outcome. Paterson and Lawson recommended to move the file as quickly as possible. At the end of the matter send out a final report. Outline what has been achieved. And ask the client “what can I do better to meet your needs?”
Ian Hu, the face of Claims Prevention and practicePro at LAWPRO, recommended that young lawyers focus on slowly increasing the number of people you know. He also recommended that we:
- keep plodding along
- take advantage of opportunities
- raise your hand
- if another lawyer bullies you, use silence to quell the fire. Pausing calms people down. Uncivil conduct can be cured with civil conduct.
- be likeable – judges like likeable, credible lawyers
- trust yourself and your opinion of the case
- don’t be afraid to ask for work
Mitch Kowalski, Professor in Legal Innovation at the University of Calgary, spoke about the future of legal practice. He predicts that the consumer approach to “Doing it Yourself” will increase. This will push the demand for new software and algorithms to solve old legal problems. For example, using Chatbots to challenge parking tickets.
In sum, remember that your career is not a sprint. It is a marathon. Do not expect immediate results after going to an event or writing one article. Instead take one action step per day, whether it be Tweeting, updating LinkedIn, blogging, or meeting someone for coffee.
(Views are my own and do not represent the views of any organization.)