Career Resources for the New or Transitioning Attorney
by Margaret Haywood
he economic downturn has thrown a few punches in the direction of the legal profession. Established attorneys may find themselves displaced, and new attorneys pass the bar and find themselves in an oversaturated market. Whether just joining the profession or considering a career change or transition, the Denver and Colorado Bar Associations offer opportunities for you to build skills and create a presence in the legal community.
There are more than 80 sections, committees, and bar-sponsored programs available to members of the DBA and CBA. These groups offer community service projects, professional development programs, and social and networking events that could virtually keep you occupied every waking hour of the day. Each group also provides access to some of the best and brightest professionals in the Colorado legal community.
Attorney Ravi Patel takes full advantage of DBA social occasions, despite his initial discomfort at networking events. “It’s difficult to ask for help from people and feel as though you don’t necessarily have anything to give in return,” Patel said.
However, he quickly realized that those in the Colorado legal community were willing, if not eager, to help. Taking his newfound acquaintances to coffee has led to solid career advice and continued connections. “It’s a long-term commitment without instant results,” Patel says of his experience. Still, his advice is to “keep going and stay focused. Keep meeting and always follow up.”
Volunteering is another channel for gaining new experiences and connecting with legal professionals. If in search of a new career path, volunteering may spark an interest in something previously unknown. Additionally, volunteering is a smart way to sharpen your skills and add experience to your résumé. The emotional boost gained from contributing to your community is just icing on the cake. The DBA facilitates many community and school-based programs, along with pro bonoopportunities, including Access to Justice, the Community Action Network, Democracy Education, and Metro Volunteer Lawyers.
If participating in a multitude of small groups and pro bonoprograms leaves you short on time and feeling overwhelmed, Patel’s advice is to initially cast a wide net; once you discover what you enjoy, focus and narrow your efforts.
As you navigate through your transition, the DBA has an abundance of career resources, ranging from job posting listservs and résumé reviews to financial assistance programs and a monthly Career Transition Support Group. The CBA’s Lending Library includes a collection of more than 50 books pertaining to career and professional development. Subjects range from new ways to use your law degree to leveraging your assets in a competitive market. Visit http://bit.ly/LendLib to find a complete list of books in the Lending Library.
For those finding themselves in career transition, financial stability is often a concern. CBA-CLE offers free and discounted events, allowing members to earn CLE credits without breaking the bank. By subscribing to listservs and remaining informed on the various low-cost events offering CLE credits, Patel acquired nearly 30 credits for under $50.
For some attorneys, starting a solo or small practice is a lifelong dream, while for others striking out solo is a last resort when unable to find employment elsewhere. Whatever the reason, starting a solo practice doesn’t mean you have to do it on your own. After exploring his options, Patel decided to hang his own shingle, using resources from the CBA’s Solo and Small Firm Section and Law Practice Management department.
The CBA’s LPM department is dedicated to providing general practice management, technology, marketing, and financial resources to its members, as well as risk management and professional liability information. Attorneys starting out on their own can find resources about topics such as office sharing and leasing, managing technology needs, and website development.
Additionally, CBA-CLE offers Hanging Your Shingle, a three-day program aimed at advising solo practitioners on entity choices, practice management, and marketing and development. Attorneys can also visit cobar.org/cle to find homestudy programs and reading materials that specialize in specific practice areas.
Though each attorney must decide what career path is best for him or her, the DBA and CBA offer resources and opportunities to connect with others that may help in finding that path. D