Young lawyers are often plagued with the same issues. It’s easy to dwell on all the things you aren’t. Everything you aren’t is exactly what society and this potentially brutal profession lord over you. I constantly hear that young attorneys are entitled, unprofessional, dragging the profession down, and unprepared. When you’re fighting these negative stereotypes, it’s hard not to view your limited age and experience as negative attributes. But there is another way to view your perceived incompetence – as stumbling blocks waiting for you to turn them into the building blocks of your success.
To make your stumbling blocks into building blocks:
Don’t succumb to the Imposter Syndrome;
The Imposter Syndrome is a fear of being discovered as less qualified, less perfect, less accomplished, and less intelligent than others perceive you to be. This feeling is common for young attorneys due to working with more experienced attorneys or the barrage of new tasks. Instead of allowing the Imposter Syndrome to overcome you, spend more time researching the issues and improving your work product. Young lawyers don’t have laurels to rest on so use your inexperience as motivation. Every lawyer started out where you are, and in time you will learn how to write that motion or negotiate that contract without the feeling of being an imposter.
Embrace your differences; and
I am an African American woman that did not meet an attorney until I matriculated into law school. According to society’s statistics, I should not be an attorney and everyday I’m reminded that I do not fit the stereotype of an attorney. Yet, I use my differences to champion for diversity and inclusion and increase opportunities for the diverse student population in the State University System of Florida. I also mentor underrepresented populations and encourage them to become an attorney. Whether you’re the first in your family to graduate from college or professional school, you’re from a different country, or you’re the youngest attorney in your area/firm, use it to serve your clients, meet the needs of an underserved area of the law, and attract the next generation of attorneys.
Find other attorneys that embody and encourage what you hope to accomplish.
While in law school I realized early I wanted to become an in-house attorney. Corporate counsel was not a popular niche in law school and definitely not a path believed achievable upon graduation. Fortunately, my professor, Judge Phyllis Kotey, believed in my far-fetched goal and introduced me to Juliet Roulhac. Juliet embodied what I hoped to accomplish as an attorney for Florida Power and Light (FPL). Judge Kotey and Juliet Roulhac are the reason my goal became attainable. Although the majority of people will not believe in your goals, especially if they are unconventional, a select few will. Those select few will encourage you personally and professionally until you reach higher heights.
So in this new year, when the “haters start their engines” talking about what’s not for you or what you’re not, remember Everything I’m Not, Made Me Everything I Am.
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