Excellent performance at your job is what you expect will help you advance professionally. Partly, this is true. But modern society requires a whole bunch more if you want to become a respected and well-known expert in your field. Volunteer work in the community, pro bono cases, serving on committees and sitting on boards. Speaking at CLE’s and maybe even teaching on the side. These are just a few of the things that young lawyers are expected to do if they want to have a good chance at establishing themselves in the legal ecosystem, building referral streams and start to generate business. This requires a massive time investment, a lot of effort and surrendering a nice chunk of your free time. All while balancing the demands of your “day job.” We are, essentially, young legal jugglers, desperate to keep all the balls orbiting around in a nice, neat circle without one rolling out into the audience, our flaws exposed.
I know so many wonderful young lawyers in this exact position. And, when your efforts and talents start to become both noticed and known, the offers for more opportunities start rolling in faster than you can manage them.
“No.” First, it starts as a whisper in the back of your mind. Your tongue flirts with saying it but can’t, doesn’t want to decline something that could be important! The months roll by, the commitments mount. And “no” is now screaming at you like “why didn’t you listen to me earlier?!”
I’m telling you now, think about using the word “no” more frequently, and very judiciously. Here are the questions you need to ask, before “yes” comes flying out of your mouth:
1. Will this grow my business?
2. Will this grow my personal brand?
3. Will this be fun?
The first two questions, I believe, are relatively easy to answer. Will your activities have a positive net effect on your chosen field and reflect positively on your reputation? Many, many, many things fit the bill for that. But, make sure both questions are answered in the affirmative. Don’t sacrifice your personal brand for any old business opportunity. The two should work together synergistically.
The third question is the doozy. You don’t really know what’s going to be fun and what’s not going to be fun when you’re beginning to establish yourself. Unfortunately, you have to try a few things out before you know where to concentrate your efforts. With fun comes passion. With passion comes terrific outcomes. So, when you decide to get involved in your professional community, cast a wide net at first. And then whittle down according to wherever your heart takes you. And say no to the things you don’t enjoy!
These activities will cut into a lot of your personal time. You want to enjoy the people you are with, and the goal you are committed to. Otherwise, you’ll pay for it with a significant cost to your happiness.