By Barbara Levenson
It’s the third week of January, winter is here, and the holidays have become a distant memory. Our days can be summed up as: billable hours, deadlines, business development, client meetings, and trying to find time for family and friends. As working professionals, we’re pulled in many directions. Is it any surprise that many of us are feeling overwhelmed?
1) Don’t believe everything that you think. Just because you think something, doesn’t mean that it’s true. Think back to an earlier time in your life when you felt overwhelmed or panicked. Chances are, this had to do with an exam that you thought you failed or a paper that you weren’t happy with, no matter how hard you tried to rework it. Did you actually fail that exam? Did your paper get a lousy grade? Probably not. Keep that in mind the next time you start imagining the worst-case scenario.
2) Unless you’re actually a defendant on trial, stop living like you are on trial. If you have made a mistake, let the powers that be know. Learn from your mistakes and use those opportunities as teachable moments. Not only does this give you the opportunity to improve your skill set, but also, it allows you to get closer to potential mentors. We learn more from our mistakes than our successes.
3) Change what you can. We all have good days and we all have bad days. Take note of what is making you unhappy. Is it the work that you’re doing? Is it the people you’re working with? Is it your significant other? How long have you felt this way? It’s rare to wake up one day and suddenly feel that everything is terrible. Before you make any life-altering decisions, talk with someone you trust. Let them know how you’re feeling. Consider professional help, whether that be in the form of a legal recruiter, a career counselor, a therapist, or all of the above. Once you have a clearer idea of what is troubling you, then you can start coming up with strategies and solutions.
4) Let the market work for you. If you conclude that you’d be happier with another job, now is the time to start your job search. The California legal market remains strong. Use it to your advantage. I have succeeded through four recessions during my thirty-year career as a legal recruiter. The market will slow down. It’s not a matter of “if,” but a matter of “when” there will be another recession.
5) Leverage your experience. If a position sounds interesting, pursue it. You can always decide later if you want to accept an offer. Don’t fall victim to analysis paralysis. Once the market slows down, you’ll wish that you had looked for a new job when you had more options. The most sought after group of associates are those with 2-5 years of experience. The most sought after group of partners are those with portable business. If you are an “up-and-coming” junior partner with a viable business development plan, firms will be more flexible on the book of business needed. More senior partners will need to be self-sustaining.
6) Make client development a top priority. Let the partners know that your goal is to make partner. Make it clear that you understand law firm economics and that you want to contribute to the bottom line. If you are a junior partner, seek out the rainmakers and learn from them. As tempting as it is to rely on institutional clients, we’ve all learned that no company or law firm is too big to fail. When you’re swamped with work, it’s hard to find time to pitch new clients, but when work slows down, you’ll be glad that you did.