10 STEPS TO BUILDING A PROFESSIONAL REPUTATION

BY JENNIFER LAU & CHIARA WOODS 

Whether you are starting a law-related job this summer, networking with lawyers in different practice areas, or just socializing with fellow law students, you have already started to build one of the most important features of your career: your professional reputation.  The legal community in Vancouver and across Canada is surprisingly small.  Keep in mind the following tips as you make your way through law school and start building your legal or non-traditional career:

(1)           You have already entered the legal profession. Whether you pursue a legal career or not, your law school classmates are your future professional colleagues.  Much of legal practice and other employment options involve ‘word of mouth’ referrals and anecdotes.  Everything you do, say, and write will form a permanent part of how your colleagues will view you going forward.

(2)           Socializing/Networking.  Socializing with current or prospective employers and with fellow law students will be a key component of your professional life.  Try to keep alcohol consumption to a minimum and avoid becoming the subject of law firm or law school gossip.  Remember that wine and cheese receptions and law firm tours are business events.  You don’t want to be known as the student who brought a date to the wine and cheese or the student who tried get a date with a lawyer at a firm tour!

(3)           Be enthusiastic and take initiative.

  • Even if you are not sure why you came to law school or what kind of career you’d like to pursue, you can still meet different types of lawyers (i.eg. public interest; large firm; small firm; government; in-house) from diverse practice areas.  You also may want to investigate non-traditional careers (i.e. public relations; sports/entertainment; or public interest) by contacting someone who has your ‘dream job’ and finding out how they gained their position.  For some ideas, see the “Non-Traditional Careers” section in the Legal Careers Guide in the Document Library on Symplicity (or buy a hard copy of the newly revised 2012 version in early April).  The contacts you make during this information-gathering process will not only be helpful during your job search, but may also be valuable contacts for your future career.
  • If you have a summer job, take the initiative to gain constructive feedback to improve your skills.  Be creative and don’t be afraid to provide thoughtful comments on a project or issue.  Finally, don’t wait for work to come to you.  Find out about files or matters that interest you and approach the appropriate person to see if you can lend a hand!  If not, ask them to keep you in mind for future cases or projects.

(4)           Maintain confidentiality and be discreet.  Whenever you are working with clients, you must at all times keep everything confidential.  Lawyers are often caught talking about their cases in elevators, on the bus or in bars!  You may also want to be careful on voicing your thoughts about opposing counsel, other students, and lawyers.

(5)           Deliver on the deadline.  Whether you are at Worksafe BC, at the university as a research assistant for a professor, at LSLAP, or with a non-profit organization or committee, you should always avoid missing a deadline (including limitation dates).  Even if your work quality is high, missing deadlines can seriously hamper your career prospects.

(6)           Go ahead, make mistakes, but never lie.  It is not a question of “if you will make a mistake”, but “when you will make a mistake”.  The key is how you deal with the aftermath.  Take responsibility, be forthright and tell your supervisor or the appropriate person immediately.  The true test of character is how people react in the face of adversity.  Don’t compound a mistake by lying, although that may seem like the most attractive option at the time.

(7)           Social Networking Sites.  Assume that current or prospective employers, clients and colleagues can and will view your online profile, which may include any material posted online such as photos you have posted; photos friends may have posted of you; and comments you have made on other people’s pages.  Consider how an employer or client would view your language or clothing.  If you are not comfortable with a potential employer, client or colleague viewing your personal life in this manner, ensure that your online profile is not public.  You can also Google yourself to see if there is anything else online of which you are unaware.  Keep your online profile professional.

(8)           E-Etiquette.  Email can be a quick, convenient, and informal method of communication.  However, being overly informal can also be viewed as unprofessional, especially when you are emailing someone for the first time.  Emails are also permanent.  Write in complete sentences and use appropriate capitalization.  Do not use abbreviations like “LOL” or use emoticons in your professional email correspondence.  Do not send numerous, repetitive e-mails as you run the risk of annoying the recipient – if you haven’t received a response or if you think something may not come across well by e-mail, pick up the phone and contact the recipient the old-fashioned way.

(9)           Telephone Etiquette.  Telephone etiquette is important because you will be interacting with interviewers, clients, and opposing counsel over the phone, both during law school and throughout your career.  Speak clearly and confidently and always state your full name, the full name of the person you are seeking, and a brief reason for why you are calling.  If you are leaving a message, it is helpful to repeat back important information at the end of the message, such as meeting times or contact information.  Ensure that all of your voicemail greetings are professional.

(10)        Professional Style.  Always err on the conservative side and dress for the position you want, not the one you necessarily have.  If business casual is appropriate (i.e. for an interview with a public interest organization or if it is specifically referred to on an invitation), still err on the conservative side.

For more information, see the CSO handouts Business Etiquette, What Not to Wear, Networking, Informational Interviewing, and Finding Unposted Jobs available online and at our office.

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Important: Second-year students seeking 2013/2014 Articles this Summer

 

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Jenn, Chiara and Tracy are here to assist you in preparing your application packages to employers this summer for 2013/2014 articling positions.  Please keep in mind that the process of looking for an articling position is competitive.  Each year, approximately 50% of the third year class starts third year without articles.  Your commitment and a strategic approach will help you to secure an articling position.  To prepare your resume and cover letter, please review the Resume and Cover Letter Guide. CSO staff members are available for appointments via Symplicity to review your application materials and discuss your articling search.

 

Get in touch with Career Services

All roads lead to Symplicity (www.ubclawcareers.com).  If you do not have a Symplicity login, email careers@law.ubc.ca so that you can access our Document Library, review job postings, and make appointments with Jenn Lau, Chiara Woods or Tracy Wachmann. We look forward to helping you with your job search wherever your law degree takes you!

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