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Career development top tips for junior lawyers in family teams

It can be a daunting journey when you first start your career as a family lawyer. Even when you qualify, you are beginning another new journey. You don’t instantly become a successful family lawyer overnight.

At nearly five years qualified I’m still very much on my journey, but here are some tips that I feel have helped me along the way:

  1. Be personable. As a family lawyer, I didn’t enter into this area of law without being a “people person”. After all, our role is to help people achieve an outcome which means they can look to the next chapter of their life and do so as comfortably as we can achieve for them.

Your clients need to trust you and feel as though you really care about them – which I do. To do this, you need to be personable.

Be kind, but fair. Be sympathetic, but neutral. Be personable, but professional.

  1. Get to know your colleagues and don’t isolate yourself. Being a lawyer can be tough, rewarding, but all the same, the week can be a long one. I believe it is vital to have supportive colleagues around you and to work as part of a team.

You need like minded people around you to discuss the cases, your ideas and to learn from them.

Remember, you don’t know everything yet. Still at my stage of my career I am not afraid to ask for help from more senior colleagues or admit if I am struggling with a specific area or case. That’s the only way I am going to become a better more well-rounded lawyer, by being a sponge and soaking up all the knowledge and support from my senior colleagues.

They have also been in your shoes and can relate.

  1. Adapt your advice. It can take a while to find your style of advice, your approach, your unique selling point. But even once you have, you’ll find you have to adapt vey quickly depending on which client walks through the door next.

What approach and style worked for one client, won’t necessarily work for the next.

No two clients or scenarios are the same and you’ll learn quickly to think on your feet and find different ways of explaining the law and how it applies to your client’s circumstances.

  1. Play the long game. Its easy to look around and see colleagues progressing in their career, billing well, and allow this to knock your confidence. Don’t let it. Your colleagues, even if they are similar age, could have started their journey long before you. Especially with many different routes into law, everyone has a slightly different story.

You will realise that it takes many years to build your client base, your connections, your referrers and establish yourself in your profession and in your firm.

Take a moment not to put pressure on yourself and to remember to learn from the journey to be the best lawyer you can be.

  1. Look after yourself. I have recently written another article (link here) about how to look after yourself when dealing with vulnerable clients and as a family lawyer, arguably all our clients are vulnerable.

It is so very important that you do not overlook the importance of making sure you take good care of yourself, you will be a better lawyer for it. Resolution and Law Care have very helpful resources on their websites to help you.

  1. Enjoy it. Remember why you wanted to be a lawyer and take a moment to acknowledge where you are and to enjoy the journey. This is a career, not just a job. We are often so tough on ourselves but the trainee you were a few years ago, would be very proud of the qualified family lawyer you are today.

Written by Lisa Payne, Legal Executive in the Family Law team at Wilsons Solicitors LLP

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