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Standing out from the crowd

“You spend the first 20 years of your life trying to fit in, and you spend the second 20 trying to figure out a way to stand out.” I’m not exactly sure where this quote is from, but I like it and it makes sense. (I mean, why else would there be hipsters, right?)

Admittedly, most attorneys are probably already used to being a bit different. I mean, not just anyone would subject themselves to three additional years of life-consuming education and debt, not to mention the summer that never was. (Speaking of, good luck to those people taking the bar exam today!)

But in this economic climate, plain, old-fashioned hard work just might not be enough anymore. Young lawyers today need to find a way to set themselves apart to get noticed and to get ahead.

For example, as I write this I am watching America’s Got Talent (I admit it) and a male pole dancer beat out a dance group and a comedian to move on in the competition. Who knows if the male pole dancer was comparatively better at his craft? His masculine pole dancing STOOD OUT.

Finding a niche can really help get your foot in the door. Have you ever found out what really got you the job after getting hired? Oftentimes the reason candidates are selected is not because they are the most qualified but because of some specific quality.

In college I did an internship program in which interns could be placed at a multitude of different state agencies or in the governor’s office. I was selected to work in the governor’s office — everyone’s top choice — because I wrote on the application I was interested in election law.

At the time, I didn’t even know if election law was a type of law and felt pretty foolish writing it down. I just took a stab at quantifying my interest in elections in some way. I remember also getting selected for a great law clerk position at the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office because the division chief liked my laid-back, friendly demeanor, reasoning that I’d be able to get along with everyone.

In my first few weeks as a recruiter, I’ve seen many candidates obtain placements because of the unique qualities they have to offer — specializing in a very specific aspect of law, being barred in multiple states or certain personality traits. A niche can get you noticed and help you gain control of your career path, giving you leverage to better command what you’ll being doing and how you’ll be compensated.

So while skinny jeans and PBR are probably not going to make you stand out from the crowd in law (or in life), finding your niche and running with it can really help you get going and get ahead as a young attorney.

(Photo courtesy Dave Morris, http://www.flickr.com/photos/davemorris/)

3 comments

  1. So let me see if I understand what you’re suggesting. You landed an internship based on laziness, guesswork, a wing and a prayer, and you think young lawyers should give that a shot too.

    And second, if they would only be more friendly and laid back, they too could land jobs with the government.

  2. Actually I didn’t pray, but maybe that would have increased my odds even more!

  3. With thousands of law school graduates pouring into our nation’s job market from superb law schools each year, a person conducting numerous in-person interviews or reviewing a sea of application materials needs something that leaves a lasting impression on his or her mind. Otherwise, it must be difficult to separate any individual from the pack when most graduates have similar education and professional backgrounds and qualifications.

    Whether it’s an engaging and interesting personality, a specialization in drafting trusts for companion animals, or perhaps a unique talent in juggling while surfing, I agree with Jen–standing out from the crowd is immensely helpful.

    @isolde–I am not sure why you possess such scathing emotions at the overall tone of this post. I don’t think that Jen was flying only by “a wing and a prayer” when she noted an interest in “election law” on her internship application. Sure, there may have been a minimal level of guesswork involved in combining the two terms to best describe her interest in elections, but there is usually some small amount of estimation in every aspect of our lives. Also, the world would probably be a better place if people were more friendly and laid-back. I don’t believe that having a congenial personality necessarily detracts from anyone’s legal prowess.

    Finally, I’m hard-pressed to find any suggestion that laziness would get you anywhere. Was it Jen’s ability to seek out and apply for internships within state agencies or the governor’s office? Perhaps, it was her selection as a law clerk in the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office. Or maybe, it was her recommendation to obtain the ability to practice in multiple states that tipped you off to supreme sloth-like tendencies. But, I digress–it’s great that you achieved all that you have only through diligence, dedication, and a sour attitude. I guess the rest of us will have to get by with our winning smiles.