How to Gain Credibility as an Inexperienced Lawyer

As a young lawyer, I found myself answering questions from a group of 100 or so judges and attorneys.

The big question — other than the one I asked myself about how I got there — came from a veteran jurist. “How do journalists decide what is newsworthy?” he asked.

I hadn’t yet tried a case, much less a high-profile one, but I realized then the value of knowing one thing that others don’t. That’s a big secret to gaining credibility when you are inexperienced attorney.

What You Know

Despite the oft-quoted wisdom — “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know” — it’s imperative that you know something. Perhaps a connection got you to the table, but you shouldn’t say anything unless you have something meaningful to say.

The challenge is to figure out what you know that matters to your audience. That is especially important when interviewing for a job.

Writing for Harvard Business Review, researchers Andy Molinksy and Jake Newfield say young professionals often don’t recognize their potential. They need to leverage the skills they already have.

“One of the best ways to stand out in a corporate setting, even as someone with less work experience, is to develop unique knowledge that makes you a go-to resource for your colleagues and clients,” the said. “One of the most effective ways of doing this is to use your research skills to synthesize and master industry specific knowledge, trends, and information.”

Who You Know

Of course, it’s good to know people who can help your career. But how do you do that when you don’t know anybody? Here are some ideas:

  • Network, particularly at bar associations and business functions
  • Volunteer in the community, such as legal aid and pro bono clinics
  • Stay in touch with contacts, but be careful about Facebook friends

Gaining experience takes time, but inexperienced lawyers can gain credibility faster than they may think. It’s not always about years; it’s really about meaningful moments.

Young lawyers can contribute to a firm, a community, or a profession in many ways. Even answering one question can create credibility.

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