How to Be Your Own Advocate on the Job as a New Lawyer

How to Be Your Own Advocate on the Job as a New LawyerThis week we welcome back guest writer Marissa Geannette to talk about speaking up for yourself when you’re a new attorney.

As a new lawyer, you’ve already worked tirelessly to earn your JD, pass the bar, and secure your first job. However, your journey is far from over – it’s just beginning!

To succeed in the legal profession, you must learn how to be your own advocate. This skill is not only essential for your professional development but also for your overall job satisfaction. Here, we explore strategies and techniques that will help you become an effective advocate for yourself over the course of your legal career.

The Importance of Self-Advocacy

Before diving into the practical tips, it’s crucial to understand why self-advocacy is such a critical aspect of your legal career. As a new lawyer, you might find yourself working in a challenging and demanding environment, like a law firm or a district attorney’s office. Here are a few key reasons why self-advocacy matters:

  • Career Growth: Advocating for yourself can help you secure promotions, salary increases, and meaningful assignments. It’s a way to show your supervisors that you are committed to your career and willing to take initiative.
  • Job Satisfaction: Self-advocacy can help you align your work with your values and interests. By communicating your needs and goals, you can ensure that you are engaged in work that resonates with you. Feeling a sense of control over your work and career is empowering.
  • Personal Development: Advocating for yourself involves continuous learning and self-awareness. It can lead to personal growth, increased confidence, and a stronger sense of purpose in your legal career.

So, how exactly do you advocate for yourself? Read on for some tips!

1. Know Your Worth

One of the fundamental aspects of self-advocacy is understanding your worth. This includes your skills, as well as the overall value you bring to your organization. Here are a few ways you can assess and communicate your worth effectively:

  • Self-Assessment: Reflect on your education, skills, and accomplishments. What qualities and experiences do you bring to the table? Knowing your strengths is essential when advocating for yourself.
  • Market Research: Research the average salaries and benefits for lawyers in your practice area and geographic location. This information can be especially helpful for negotiating a fair compensation package or salary increase.
  • Document Achievements: Keep a record of your accomplishments, successful cases and deals, and positive feedback from colleagues and clients. Use this as evidence for yourself of how well you are doing, as well as documentation during performance evaluations and salary negotiations.
2. Develop Strong Communication Skills

Being an effective self-advocate requires strong communication skills. Clear and articulate communication is key, whether you’re negotiating a raise or expressing your career aspirations. Here are some communication tips for new lawyers:

  • Confidence: Speak with confidence, even when discussing challenging topics. Confidence in your abilities and goals will inspire confidence in others.
  • Constructive Feedback: Seek constructive feedback from mentors and supervisors. This will help you identify areas for improvement and demonstrate your commitment to growth. Asking for feedback and getting it is not a sign of weakness – it’s just the opposite.
  • Active Listening: Listen attentively to your colleagues, supervisors, and clients. Understanding their needs and concerns will enable you to tailor your communication to address their goals and help you become your best advocate.
3. Build Strong Relationships

Building strong relationships with colleagues and clients is a crucial aspect of self-advocacy. These relationships can open doors, provide support, and help you navigate the complexities of the legal profession. Here are some ways to build strong professional relationships:

  • Networking: Attend legal conferences, seminars, and events to expand your professional network. Building relationships with peers and industry professionals can lead to valuable opportunities down the line.
  • Mentorship: Seek out experienced lawyers who can mentor you in your career. A mentor can provide guidance, share insights, and introduce you to valuable contacts. These people can be from within your organization or outside of it.
  • Collaborate Effectively: Working well with colleagues demonstrates your teamwork skills. Building a reputation as a reliable and collaborative team member can enhance your future career prospects.
4. Take Initiative

Being proactive and taking initiative is a hallmark of self-advocacy. Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you – actively seek them out. You can take initiative in your legal career by:

  • Volunteering for Challenging Assignments: Offer to take on complex cases or projects that align with your career goals. This shows your dedication and willingness to go above and beyond.
  • Continuing Education: Stay current on legal developments in your practice area. Pursue additional training or certifications that enhance your expertise.
  • Problem Solving: Be a problem solver in your organization. Identify issues and propose solutions that benefit the client, the firm, and your career.
5. Embrace Resilience

The legal profession can be demanding, and setbacks are inevitable. Being resilient is a crucial aspect of self-advocacy because it allows you to bounce back from challenges and setbacks. Ways to cultivate resilience include:

  • Learn from Failure: View failures as learning opportunities. Analyze what went wrong, make adjustments, and move forward with a stronger sense of determination.
  • Seek Support: Lean on your support network, including friends, family, and mentors, during challenging times. They can provide emotional support and valuable advice.
  • Maintain Work-Life Balance: Balance is one of the keys to resilience. Prioritize self-care, hobbies, and time with loved ones to recharge and stay resilient in your legal career.
Becoming Your Own Advocate Is Part of a Successful Career

Becoming your own advocate is essential for your career growth, job satisfaction, and personal development as a new lawyer. Self-advocacy is an ongoing process, worth paying attention to from day one if you want to thrive in your legal career.


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About Marissa Geannette

Marissa graduated from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law in 2009 where she was a member of the Law Review. She began her career in the corporate department of White & Case LLP in NYC and spent 8 years as an associate there. Marissa is passionate about educating law students and recent law grads about Biglaw and career paths one can take after law school (both traditional and non-traditional). She wrote her book, “Behind the Biglaw Curtain” to help demystify Biglaw for those beginning their careers. Whether it’s in Biglaw or not, she believes that there is a satisfying career out there for everyone (even if it’s not the traditional one you thought you were “supposed” to have).

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