My last blog post and a previous were about goal-setting, verbalizing your goals and asking for what you need to accomplish them. I invite you to take it one step further and think intentionally about the trajectory of your career and the lawyer you would like to be 10 years from now.
When you start out in the practice of law, knowing nothing, assuming everyone knows more than you, it is easy to see yourself as a tiny minnow in a sea of fish, identical to the rest, lacking in any specific knowledge or skill. You barely know what it means to be a lawyer, let alone what it means to be a good one, let alone being a special one, different from the pack. Planning years ahead sometimes feels hard.
When I started out as a family law associate, there were probably 25 other first-, second- and third-year family law attorneys at similarly sized firms in Montgomery County. For all intents and purposes, we were largely interchangeable, with very similar backgrounds and bases of knowledge (minimal). I look around now at the members of that group and see we have managed to differentiate ourselves from one another. The ones who are the most successful have developed niche practices or something for which they’re known.
Years ago, I developed an interest in retirement distributions and began to educate myself in that subspecialty. Because others lacked the interest, they did not similarly educate themselves and so I begin to hold a specialty in that area (most find it quite boring). Now my peers consistently reach out to me and seek me out as a resource in this area. Sometimes I offer free help and sometimes I am retained as co-counsel or formally consulted. Either way, what started as merely an interest on my part has led to a lucrative expansion of my practice. I’ve managed to differentiate myself from the 500 other family law attorneys in my county.
Do you have a particular interest in your specialty? Is there a hole in the market that you can identify? Can you educate yourself about a particularly mundane area of the law that no one but you is interested in? Think about how you can set yourself apart from the pack to grow your practice. Think about what you want to be known for 10 years from now and take the first step toward ending up there today.
Jessica Markham is the owner of Markham Law Firm, a family law firm in Bethesda.