You don’t have to eat steak and smoke cigars, but you’ve got to do something.
Back in the good old days (okay, let’s just call them the old days, since we can think of more than a few things about them that were anything but good), there was a place for “service partners” in law firms—the lawyers who kept their heads down, provided excellent client service, and did great work. The business coming in from the big rainmakers kept these lawyers busy. Service partners knew they would never be big stars, but there was a place for them in the firm and they were valued.
This second-tier track appealed to the less extroverted lawyers who did not see themselves as having the natural ability to be a rainmaker. And because there was less pressure to be on the golf course or wine and dine clients into the evening, the service partner track offered some work-life benefits to anyone, mostly women, looking for them.
Today’s firms, squeezed by the changing marketplace and client demand for better value, are no longer willing to “carry” these partners who may be great lawyers but don’t bring in enough business to justify their existence.
But there is good news: Data on talent shows that you don’t have to be a charismatic white alpha male—with access to some mysterious kind of magic—to successfully originate business. There are lots of different ways attorneys can think entrepreneurially: positioning themselves as experts, building their reputation in a niche area, and networking in settings other than the conference bar or the golf course.
What can make the difference for more introverted lawyers, and for women, people of color, LGBTQ lawyers, and others who have come to the field from outside the old boys’ network? Legal PR, that’s what! The most valuable thing you can do for your career is make a plan to promote your work and position yourself as a lawyer to watch, a lawyers with a substantive contribution to make in your area of expertise. A PR firm like ours, that understands the specific challenges of taking a less traditional path in the legal field, can help you identify channels to get your name out there, places where you might publish and get quoted, speaking engagements that will allow your knowledge to shine.
Just don’t give up if you feel you don’t fit the traditional mold. That mold is crumbling anyway, as we see in all kinds of stories, day after day. Forge your own path, but find a way to make yourself visible, connect with potential clients, and originate that all-important business.