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Top tips for newly-qualified solicitors: mapping out your legal career

Mapping out your legal career while facing the challenges that come with your first NQ position can be a daunting prospect. As you embark on your legal career, it's essential to have a plan in place to navigate these challenges successfully.

We speak to Briona Brogan, quadruple-qualified lawyer (NY, Ireland, England & Wales) and Principal Legal Recruitment Consultant for Robert Walters Ireland, who gives valuable tips to set yourself up for long-term success.

1. Know yourself and your goals

 

When mapping out any short or long-term career goals, understanding yourself will help you make informed decisions about your career path.

“Self-reflection is crucial in navigating the early stages of your legal career. Your legal career is just starting, but by now, you probably already have an idea of the areas of work you enjoy the most."

Now is a good time to ask yourself what you can see yourself enjoying in the long term.

 

"Figuring out what you enjoy doing now will help you make informed decisions, seek out opportunities that align with your goals, and ultimately build a fulfilling and successful legal career,” shares Briona.

2. Understand your options

 

The area of law you specialise in will go on to shape the rest of your legal career, so knowing your options is key.

“When you’re newly qualified, it’s common to fall into specific practice areas based on the seats or rotations you’ve completed,” shares Briona.

With a long career ahead of you, it’s crucial to try, at the very least, to work in an area of law you enjoy. Not only will this prevent career dissatisfaction later down the line but will also prevent burnout.

“I often speak to candidates who feel pigeon-holed by the seats they have taken and feel obliged to accept seats in an area where they are offered work. However, it’s important not to let the needs of the firm take precedence over what you want to pursue.”

"It’s also important to remember that law firms don't want you to stay somewhere you are not committed to out of misplaced loyalty,” Briona advises.

Figure out if you need to move firms

Finding a firm that offers the right exposure and experience for your goals is important to set yourself up for a fulfilling career. However, it’s common for NQs to feel anxious about changing firms early in their legal careers.

“If you are not offered the seat or department you are looking for - consider if it is time to make a change. If anything, now is the best time to move into the area you feel you would enjoy the most and I would urge you to do so.”

“We make sure the legal professionals we work with understand the options available to switch specialisation or firms. As the job market in Ireland has opened up with much more availability and demand for NQ solicitors, don’t be afraid to reach out to a legal recruiter to explore other options.”

I would recommend that NQ’s seize the opportunity to make the switch now, rather than facing an uphill struggle if you decide to do so later on in your legal career.

 

If you’re considering moving firms, get in touch with Briona for a confidential discussion about your options.

 

3. Establish yourself & build your network

 

Boost your internal profile

NQ solicitors can boost their internal profile by actively seeking out opportunities to showcase their skills and contributions, volunteering for projects, and consistently delivering high-quality work that aligns with the firm's goals and values.

Build your professional network

If you haven’t already, it’s worth becoming a member of legal associations and organisations related to your practice area. Try and attend networking events and take advantage of opportunities to connect with like-minded professionals.

Building a strong professional network in the legal industry is not just about who you know, but also about who knows you.

 

"It opens doors to new opportunities, provides valuable insights, and can lead to unexpected career advancements. In a competitive field like law, your network can be your greatest asset."

Find a mentor

Finding a mentor as a newly qualified solicitor is invaluable. A mentor can provide guidance, share their own experiences, and offer support throughout your legal career journey.

 

4. Start your career with good habits

 

The change in status from being a trainee solicitor to a newly qualified solicitor can be challenging. With your increased workload and the desire to impress early in your legal career, it can be easy to fall into bad habits that can have a long-term negative impact.

“As a former lawyer myself, and now someone who regularly advises legal professionals, I can attest to the importance of work-life balance for long-term career success in the legal field."

These are some good habits to consider:

 

Set boundaries

Establish clear boundaries between work and personal life by defining specific work hours and sticking to them. Avoid bringing work home unless absolutely necessary.

Make self-care a non-negotiable part of your routine:

Regular exercise, healthy eating, and getting enough sleep will help maintain physical and mental well-being.

Delegate and collaborate

Learn to delegate tasks when necessary and collaborate with colleagues effectively.

Practice time management

Use time management techniques to prioritise tasks and set realistic goals to maintain a sense of control over your workload.

Seek support and guidance

Learning from others' experiences can provide valuable insights and support during challenging times.

 

"Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is crucial for long-term career success in the legal profession. It not only prevents burnout and promotes overall well-being but also enhances productivity, creativity, and the ability to deliver high-quality work.”

“Remember, a balanced life not only benefits you personally but also positively impacts your professional growth.”

 

Starting early with good habits is crucial for newly qualified solicitors to establish a healthy work-life balance.

Mapping out your legal career as a newly qualified solicitor requires careful consideration and proactive steps. It’s crucial to understand yourself and your goals, know your specialisation options, and work to build your support network. Likewise, starting your career with good habits will set the tone for a work-life balance that benefits you both personally and professionally. At the start of your professional journey, implementing these tips will set the foundation for a successful, fulfilling legal career.

 

Get in touch

If you’re a newly qualified solicitor looking for advice on making your next career move, or an organisation looking to hire top legal talent in Ireland, contact Briona today for more information on +353 871960925 or email at briona.brogan@robertwalters.com

Browse our latest vacanciesNQ jobs in Dublin.

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