2014: The Year of the Hustle

2014 Year of the HustleIt’s January, so we must reflect and resolve, right? Well, I’ve never been one for resolutions (just do it, don’t talk about it), but the beginning of a new year is a good time to examine recent history and identify “areas of potential growth,” shall we call them.

When I think about what I’ve been most surprised about in the 2+ years since I started The Girl’s Guide to Law School, one key thing stands out: The remarkable lack of urgency that many law students and young lawyers seem to feel about shaping their lives and their careers.

Before you get all offended, let me be clear. I’m not saying you’re lazy. I’m not saying you don’t spend a lot of time studying in the library. But — and I have to be honest here — there is a odd lack of gumption, of hustle, that permeates many of the interactions I have with law students and new lawyers.

A few examples:

  • Almost no one follows up. I’m not even sure why I bother passing out business cards. If I meet ten people at an event, it’s rare to hear from even one of them later. And these aren’t random, scatter-shot encounters. These are aspiring attorneys I talked with in some detail, who I’d be happy to help (for free, no strings attached). How long does it take to write a two-line “nice to meet you” email? 30 seconds? A minute? I’m mystified.
  • Golden opportunities go sailing by. Being a matchmaker at heart, I keep a stash of interesting opportunities in my back pocket, to hand out when relevant: “Oh, you’re interested in X? Why don’t you write for my friend’s well-read blog in that area? They’re always looking for good content.” In the last 2+ years, I can recall ONE case where the person (a 1L) actually took up the offer. One. And she’d only been in law school for a few weeks, so it might just be that she wasn’t sufficient acclimated to the prevailing culture yet to know better. Again, I’m mystified. How hard is it to write a 500-word blog post on a topic you claim to want to spend your entire career thinking about?
  • People have no idea what they want. If you don’t believe me, I challenge you to ask a handful of law students what type of law they want to practice when they graduate. A shocking number of answers will be along the lines of, “Well, I don’t really know. I guess I need to figure that out.” Um, yes. You do. Like, yesterday.
  • Curiosity is dead. Maybe I’m a Pollyanna, but I think we’re living in a pretty remarkable time. With a few keystrokes, you can connect to interesting people around the world. With fairly minimal effort, you can broadcast your own thoughts and ideas to a limitless audience. Connections abound! Opportunities await! Oh, but participation requires learning something new? No, thanks. That’s scary. (In fairness, I’d have to blame the law schools for this one.)

I could go on, but let’s not get too bummed out.

If you recognize yourself in any of the above, I’d suggest a new approach:

Why not make 2014 the Year of the Hustle?

The Year of the Hustle

I know, you went to law school to be respectable. Hustle? Ew.

Don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds. At its core, the Year of the Hustle consists of two wholesome, totally respectable components which can even be kind of fun:

  1. Start to seize opportunities
  2. Begin to build your team

Let’s talk about each one in a little more detail.

#1. Seizing Opportunities

Obviously in order to seize opportunities, you’ve got to be able to identify them. That’ll require curiosity, self-awareness, and strategic research.

Once you’ve identified some interesting opportunities, you’ll need to explore them, which means trying things out, iterating, and (gasp!) experiencing failure.

Finally, and I can’t emphasize this enough, you can’t seize an opportunity without execution. All the talking and strategizing in the world isn’t going to accomplish much if you don’t DO things. A huge percentage of life involves showing up. If you’re not there (or your writing isn’t submitted) — guess what? Nothing’s going to happen.

Stop talking, start executing.

#2. Building Your Team

You might be wondering how you’re going to find all these (supposedly) awesome opportunities.

Well, that’s pretty easy. You have to engage with other people, including strangers.

If you’re going to successfully hustle your way into the career and life you want, you have to let other people help you. (Asking for help isn’t cheating, by the way. It’s smart.)

And, on the flip side, you’ll have to be generous with your own time and resources to help the people around you. Why? Because otherwise no one’s going to help you. What goes around comes around, karma’s a bitch, etc. (Read Give and Take for the details. Great book. Highly recommend it.)

Like it or not, we’re living in a hyper-connected, hyper-social world. In a profession that’s changing as rapidly as the law is right now, you need all the help you can get.

Learning how to connect with other people in a meaningful way, and to engage them in your endeavors, is the essence of the hustle.

What’s Next?

Don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging on the execution front. Details of how to do all of this stuff will be forthcoming.

For the moment, just blue sky it for a few minutes:

  • What do you want to learn in the next six months?
  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • Who do you want to meet?

Chew on that for a bit. More soon.

Who’s in? Share your answers in the comments.

Ready to execute?

If you’re ready to take action and hustle, I’d strongly urge you to be in San Francisco on March 1st. Why? Because I’m throwing a conference on exactly this topic!

You can learn more about the Catapult legal career conference and get your ticket right now. So easy, right?

(Are you on our mailing list? If not, you probably want to sign up.)

Image by ba1969 via stock.xchng.

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Comments

  1. TL;DR disclaimer here

    There are probably a couple of reasons why law students and young attorneys are so apathetic about their careers. The first being time, obviously you touched on the time factor. Law students are busy studying and doing who knows what so either A. they forget about thanking you, B. don’t really think that you can help them so they don’t bother, or C. [not time related] are too scared to actually contact you for whatever reason.

    I also think a lot of law students are lazy. Yes they work hard at school or their job but law school is kind of a lazy choice. I see so many of my fellow students pick law school because they didn’t take the time to actually figure out what they could do with their major. Therefore, they picked law school because there must magically be jobs in law that aren’t found elsewhere [i.e. their major]. A lot of students think that employers will look favorably on a law degree and that it will open doors if they chose not to do law. I have personally experienced the distrust employers have towards law degrees [and I was applying for unpaid internships, so I imagine it’d be worse with actual jobs].

    So, the majority of the law school student body are filled with a bunch of kids that don’t know what they want to do and either don’t do the research or have the time to do the research necessary to figure out what they want. Unfortunately, so many of them will either end up in jobs they hate, or unemployed with mountains of debt.

    I have more reasons but this comment is already too long as it is.

    • Yeah, if I’m feeling charitable, I think a lot of the lack of action has to do with low confidence and an inability to see that people are actually willing to help.

      If I’m in a less charitable mood, I just think people are lazy and entitled…

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Best of luck.

  2. I think this post is applicable to anyone who wants to have a successful career, lawyer and non-lawyer alike. Networking needs to start as soon as you have some idea of what you want to do with your life. Those interaction need to be genuine and purposeful. Tell everyone what you are a looking for, and then actually put the work in to make it happen. Be positive, and be creative! If a door doesn’t seem to be open, create one. I’ve seen this work many times. In fact, sometimes the absence of a job opening is actually the best scenario because then you are the only applicant.

    You don’t lie when you say you’re an excellent matchmaker. I’ve appreciated the connections you’ve shared with me over the past couple years. Hopefully someday I can repay the favor.

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