After six year’s of hard study, endless hours of revision and exams, several rounds of job interviews, two vacation schemes and 24 long months of training your wait is finally over. You’ve been admitted to the roll and can with great pride show off your newly acquired practising certificate and business cards emblazoned with the job title solicitor. Well done, I’m very proud of you!
Saying that, don’t think you can slack off. You’re far from the finished product meaning now is when the hard work really begins. Your first year of working as an associate in Linklaters’ corporate practice is going to stretch you more than ever before. What’s more, you’ve qualified during the Dotcom boom so you’re going to have your hands full advising on some very high-profile headline grabbing deals. Expect an even steeper learning curve than when you transitioned from law student to trainee solicitor.
It’s a given that as a newly qualified (NQ) solicitor you’ll be expected to take on greater levels of responsibility but don’t be fooled into thinking that you’re suddenly an expert. You have years of continuous learning ahead of you. When unsure how to approach a piece of work, or you don’t know the answer to a question off by heart, it’s still OK to ask senior colleagues for help.
Whilst I’m on the subject of learning, remember the importance of investing in your professional development. Do an honest self-assessment to identify weaknesses and / or gaps in your knowledge and pull together an action plan to address these. For instance, seek out opportunities that will help enhance your drafting as I appreciate you didn’t get as much exposure to this during your training contract.
As an extrovert you’ve never failed to make an impression on your colleagues. But how can I put this? Were you getting noticed for ‘all’ the right reasons? Is it because colleagues found it novel watching an Asian female whizzing around the office in an electric wheelchair making fun of herself?
I appreciate that during your training contract there were times when it was difficult to fit in and you resorted to self-deprecation as you desperately sought validation from your colleagues. After all, what better way is there to successfully fit in at work than being labelled as one of the ‘popular’ trainees who made everyone laugh?
Well, that’s what I thought but I’ve now come to realise getting noticed at work is far from a popularity contest. It’s more about figuring out how to positively differentiate yourself from other NQs. As I wrote in one of my previous letters, living with a disability is one of your superpowers and it does make you more memorable. As does your Bangladeshi heritage.
But what about the contribution you make to client work and the greater good of your firm? What do you want to be known for? And how is that aligned with the strategy of Linklaters’ corporate department? These are important questions you should start asking yourself from today as they will help you to develop a personal brand.
As for your internal network, focus on cultivating relationships with influential partners and senior associates who will eventually become your sponsors (or cheer leaders) and mentors.
But that’s not to say you should neglect everyone else, particularly the non-lawyers. Think about the library and print room staff that came to your rescue on countless occasions. Indeed, never forget where you came from and who helped you get here. You may feel on top of the world right now but it’s keeping your feet firmly on the ground that will help navigate your formative years of being a fully-fledged lawyer.
But equally, stop with the self-deprecation, accept compliments with pride and drop the word ‘just’ when introducing yourself to others. You’re not “just an NQ” you’re “an NQ” and a valuable colleague.
Best of luck, Husnara. You’ve got this!