“If you can’t fly, run; if you can’t run, walk; if you can’t walk, crawl; but by all means keep moving.”
—Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s closing remarks from his Founder’s Day address at Spelman College on April 10, 1960, titled, “Keep Moving from This Mountain”
Every MLK day, I find it necessary to not just enjoy the three-day weekend but absorb the endless wisdom embedded in MLK’s most famous speeches and quotes. In rereading his speech to the women of Spelman College, the quote above resonated with me as a new lawyer, yearning to be proficient in my area of practice.
It is no secret that the profession of law breeds competition. Competition for external recognition; competition for the highest billable hours; competition for bringing in accounts; competition for “winning” cases; competition for outward perceptions of competence.
As a new lawyer navigating a practice area I was unfamiliar with, the primal sense of competition can be crippling if you allow it. Writing from experience, and drawing inspiration from MLK’s words, you will succeed, you will “fly,” when you understand that you are only in competition with yourself. You are your own barometer. External notions of competition will only distract and impede your progress.
Practically, drawing from my six months of experience working at a firm, I know that I will not be as productive or bill as much as a colleague with six years of experience. It is unrealistic and destructive to my productivity to think as much. I’ve found that when I channel my energy into receiving a better result than I did at my last hearing, billing more hours as my caseload increases than I did the previous month, writing more precisely in my correspondence with clients, I develop an unabated momentum that I would not have if I focused on my colleagues’ work.
Momentum is a precious asset. As a new attorney, I strongly advise you to capitalize on it to inspire yourself and use yourself as a benchmark for measuring your own success. You may not be able to “fly” by having all the right answers, litigating like a seasoned lawyer, or bringing in the most accounts, but you should keep moving and take pride in doing better today than you did yesterday.
Maureen Edobor is an associate with Goldberg Segalla, LLP in Baltimore.