Shaping the course of your practice
Last month marked the 10th anniversary of my tenure at my current law firm. Although this is not where I started my legal career, this is certainly where I have spent most of my career so far. When I mentioned this anniversary to friends and colleagues, I was mostly shocked. To be honest, I was shocked by the shock.
I grew up watching the parents of many friends spend 10, 20, even 30 years in the same company. But times have changed and I have noticed over the years that the majority of my friends and colleagues move from company to company, company to company, every few years. I didn’t realize it at first. Maybe I was concerned about my business, the next motion deadline, the next round of changes to a deal, that I haven’t noticed this change for a while. Eventually, however, I looked around and realized that my tenure in my business had gone beyond that of the people around me.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020, the median tenure with a current employer was 4.1 years. My hypothesis that this was a generational trend was correct, as the same data showed that the older the worker, the longer the tenure. The median tenure of workers aged 55 to 64 (9.9 years) in January 2020 was more than triple that of workers aged 25 to 34 (2.8 years).
Is it an old school mentality of loyalty to your employer contributing to these numbers? Have the younger generations been let down by these expectations and are they thirsty to try something new? I asked former classmates, friends and professional colleagues what they thought of this change. Some felt that they could not receive the substantial salary increase they were looking for without moving to a new business or business. Some highlighted a desired change of scenery and relocation to a new part of the country or state. Many have cited the need for a better work-life balance, including remote or hybrid work environments, as the reason young people are often looking for new opportunities.
Others pointed out that within 15 years of being in the workforce, we have faced several major recessions and a global pandemic. Of course, the economic climate contributes to the numbers. Many people lost their jobs in the years following the 2008 financial crisis.
The response I heard more often than others was a variation of “I wanted to do something different”. Most people I spoke to expressed disinterest or boredom in the work they were doing and attributed their career development to that feeling. “I couldn’t work on one more case involving X” or “I hated practicing law X and wanted to work more on law Y”.
I understand. I can quickly list many areas of practice that would bother me or not interest me. The list of practice areas that interest me is much shorter. I graduated just before our whole economy basically collapsed and saw the people around me scrambling to find a job, any job, to start paying off those heavy college loans. by right. For many, finding their favorite niche has taken more than a step. It is rare to switch from medical malpractice to art law or real estate law to criminal defense. The law someone had dreamed of practicing before and during law school was likely to take several stepping stones to achieve it. But do you always have to leave to find something new, or do you just need to approach your current situation differently?
Like my friends, I didn’t start out practicing law which I found most interesting, but eventually took a different path to get there. At the beginning, my career in another firm was in an area of ââlaw without much deviation or variety. Then, 10 years and a month ago, I joined my current firm where lawyers had their hands in a variety of practice areas. This is where I was able to shape the course of my practice.
During my early years with this firm, I worked on a variety of files, involving real estate matters, partnership disputes, corporate and commercial matters and, particularly exciting for me, libel cases. After several years of successful and established client relationships, I began to take on more and more libel cases, but also faced potential cases in adjacent legal areas. A libel case led to a license litigation, which led to a copyright case, which led to a cyberbullying case. At one point, I made a conscious decision to seek out clients and businesses in the areas of law that interested me. This meant saying yes to people who asked me if I was interested in telling their friend about a script they were looking for or an acquaintance who asked for advice on a startup they were exploring. Engaging in those conversations and being prepared to tackle smaller questions about topics I liked would eventually lead to a lot more. My eagerness to explore and deal with cases in the areas of law that I found fascinating – dealing with First Amendment protections, privacy and public rights, media and technology – was associated with my firm’s will. to let his lawyers explore new types of cases. It is this approach that gave me the latitude to shift the focus of my practice without switching from one practice to another.
I realize that not all businesses or businesses are so willing to step out of their comfort zone, and sometimes getting off the ship is the only way to achieve your career goals. However, while you might think your current employer won’t let you do the job you want to do, the only way to find out is to push back (or at least push) the status quo. I had the chance to evolve in an environment conducive to innovation and expansion. Just as parents sometimes need to take a step back and let their children see their own path, employers may need to allow their employees the opportunity to take risks and try new things. Michael Phelps would never have won a thousand gold metals if his mother had told him not to get too close to the water. (It’s me. I’m Michael Phelps in this analogy.)
When I started out in my firm or started my legal career, I never thought I would one day be working on the issues I deal with now. I was fortunate enough to do the type of work I had on my bucket list in law school, but it took an interesting and unfamiliar type of case to move on to the next.
If your reason for looking for a new job is location, pay, benefits, or lifestyle, go ahead and prosper by all means. But if what prompts you to browse job openings is a desire to practice in a different area of ââlaw, talk to your employer about expanding your practice, or bring up a case that seems a little different to you. Once you (competently) handle this case, your employer may be more willing to allow you to build relationships with potential clients in new uncharted territory. Sometimes a little creativity, paired with a little relationship building and trust, can be the key to forging your own career path.
Diana Warshow is Senior Counsel at Nesenoff & Miltenberg, LLP in New York, NY. Practicing law since 2008, Diana’s work focuses on defamation and Title IX law. She represents clients in defamation and slander complaints against media companies, print publications, tech companies, blogs and social media sites. She also represents students in disciplinary proceedings at high schools, colleges and higher education institutions across the country. You can reach her by email at [email protected] and connect with her on LinkedIn.