When you think of a new attorney, your first thought is probably a millennial right out of law school. While this vision may fit a large percentage of new lawyers, it leaves out a substantial segment of this population.
According to an article by Law Crossing, more than 40% of law students enrolled in the 2012-2013 academic year were between the ages of 25 and 39. More than 10% of enrollees were above the age of 40 years old. This means that there are a vast number of mature adults graduating from law school and entering the workforce as new attorneys.
The challenges of being in this position can be extensive, as you compete with younger attorneys for coveted positions. Here are some tips for the mature new attorney to hopefully make the transition into the profession a little easier.
Keep your expectations reasonable
There is a common misconception that a law degree equals automatic riches. While this may have been the case in decades past, it is certainly not today’s reality. A legal education is still a great tool for increased income, but it does not guarantee six figures. The legal field is overflowing with attorneys, so competition is tight. Don’t assume that your maturity and previous work experience will get you into the door of a major law firm.
In fact, many firms prefer to hire younger lawyers because they feel that they can pay them less and exert more influential over their career paths. Don’t let this discourage you though. Play to your strengths and highlight the attributes that make you a more attractive employee than your younger counterparts.
Set your own course
While an established firm may prefer a younger lawyer, your maturity may prove to be an asset if you choose to hang out your own shingle. If you’ve been working in another career, you may be in a better financial position than your competition to open a practice with sufficient resources. Also, many potential clients feel more comfortable with mature attorneys. To them your advanced age represents experience, even though you are fresh out of law school.
Step outside of your comfort zone
Older “new” attorneys generally have family responsibilities that their younger counterparts do not have. While they run off to hang out and have a drink at the end of the day, you may be running soccer errands or cleaning the gutters. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your box once in a while and go out for that drink. A lot of deals and promotions happen while socializing. I’m not saying to hang out all night and come home to an extremely upset spouse, but if you are hoping to advance your career, it may prove useful to socialize and network once in a while.
Starting a new career comes with a variety of challenges. As a brand new attorney in a mature package, you may find yourself having to compete with younger attorneys for a limited number of opportunities. By embracing the characteristics that set you apart and thinking outside the box, you can create your own successful entrance into the legal profession.
About Erika Winston:
Erika Winston is a Virginia based writer with a passion for all things legal. As a former domestic relations attorney, she understands the challenge of determining the best fee structure for your practice. Erika is a regular contributor to TimeSolv and a variety of other publications.