March 6, 2013
Four components make up a lawyer’s brand: technical skills, client service, dynamic approach and personal qualities. That said, the single most important component is the technical skills. We cannot emphasize this enough. The work product you deliver and the skills you bring to it anchor your brand. They are its foundation.
Here’s why—regardless of what job you have or what type of law you practice, you are selling a product and the clients who buy it expect high quality. It doesn’t matter if you are the nicest, most interesting person with impeccable client service skills. If you deliver a crappy work product, you will not get repeat customers. And here’s the rub—if no one is buying your product you lose the opportunity to hone and refine your skills. It can be a vicious cycle. This is why it is imperative that from the early days of your career on you make it a priority to develop stellar technical legal skills.
Here are four tips to help you with technical skill building:
1. Seek out challenging assignments: Don’t shy away from assignments that may seem difficult at first. Often those are the assignments that provide the greatest learning opportunities. Particularly if the assignment will allow you to showcase some of your strengths, it can be a great opportunity to get hands on training while making a positive impression.
2. Speak up if you are not getting what you need: If you are stuck on a series of repetitive and unchallenging assignments that are not furthering your skill development, talk to someone about it immediately and consistently until something changes for the positive. Suffering in silence when it comes to skill development is a serious career mistake.
3. Show up for trainings: If and when skills training is made available try to go at any cost. It’s tempting to miss a training because of workload. Just remember, work will always be there—training may not—so if you skip, you rob yourself of an opportunity. Even if you have to go on your own dime and your own time, it’s worth making the investment to solidify your brand.
4. Seek and implement feedback: Training and hands on experience are valuable but can be limited in the absence of feedback. Feedback is your friend—make it your constant companion throughout your career. Do not wait for an annual evaluation to find out how you are doing. The shelf-life on that data may be too dated to be helpful and you may have learned bad habits that will not serve you. Try taking a crack at evaluating how you think you did and take your analysis to your supervisor for his/her thoughts. Taking this initiative will make it easier for him/her to frame their feedback and will inspire them to help you. And don’t forget to say thank you. Nothing will kill your ability to get future feedback more quickly than accepting it poorly.