With 2018 almost over, it’s the time of year for holiday parties, seeing family and friends, and re-evaluating professional goals.
Successful lawyers not only do their work and handle cases but are also active in the community and respective bars. Every successful lawyer knows the key to bringing in new business is contacts and visibility.
Unfortunately, the price of this success is burnout, stress, anxiety and depression. I became a lawyer to serve others. Like all of us, when anyone asked me to join an organization or board, or accept an appointment, my response was an immediate “yes.”
It didn’t take long for those 10-to-12-hour days in the office to be followed by hours of evening and weekend meetings. Soon thereafter, every minute of a day, week, and weekends were booked.
The key to success lies in learning to adapt. Here are best practices to encourage others to serve in leadership positions while keeping sane.
Managing Your Time
As millennials, we have three phone numbers (home, office, cell), two email addresses (work and personal), and at least two social media accounts (Facebook and LinkedIn). We can be reached by fax, snail-mail, email, text and even tweet while carrying a heavy caseload. It’s no wonder why we may feel we are being pulled in too many directions.
Avoid being overextended and unhappy from committing to everything. As attorneys, we will always be limited in personal time since we constantly advocate for our clients. But, we must also make time for ourselves.
When confronted with a new opportunity to volunteer, consider: Do you have the time and energy to dedicate for this new venture? Can you just volunteer for one time only? Remember, you have the option to say no. Your clients and your personal life are the top priorities. Be realistic about the amount of time you can devote to this new endeavor.
Schedule your yeses for things that bring you excitement. For example, reserve time in your calendar for an event that makes you happy and is unrelated to work. Make time for exercise, family activities and other pursuits to keep yourself healthy and happy.
When committing to volunteer, plan your schedule and stick to it. Make to-do lists that specify how much time you will dedicate for these new priorities. Set expectations, giving people an alternative way to reach you in case of an emergency. Work should be the top priority, so set aside certain times to check e-mails and return phone calls. Ask former volunteers about expectations within your role.
This is a daily process of evaluating when to make room for what makes you happy and learning to say no. Our time is better dedicated to a handful of in-depth pursuits, versus being enrolled in too many shallow commitments.
Cultivating Volunteer Relationships Into Business Development
When chairing a board or committee, be mindful of its mission statement and how it correlates with your work. Done right, this will help you meet people and build your network of contacts, allow you to give something back to the profession or community, and help you build your leadership skills and reputation as the kind of person who can get things done.
Business development is an important facet within the legal profession. Our work is based upon relationships, requiring constant networking. Volunteering with nonprofits and bar association committees related to our subject area allows us to have direct contact with potential clients.
While volunteering, you will meet people from all different walks of life. Sometimes, those paths will cross with your law practice. You never know whether someone will need your services or if you can refer them. Make sure the nonprofits, bar associations or other groups have your contact information, and follow-up when necessary.
On multiple occasions, I’ve met clients and referrals through volunteering. When you make a personal impact on someone’s life, people remember and think of you fondly. While volunteering teaches us more than growing business, networking organically is an added benefit.
In addition, you can achieve more by spreading the work to your colleagues and staff. Don’t be afraid to put your faith in professionals who work full-time for the organization for operational tasks.
Marketing and business development through volunteering can initially be frustrating because of the unquantifiable return. However, like the value of money, the earlier you start, the greater your potential.
Sharpening Your Skills
As a young attorney, it’s important to spend time doing the work and learning the craft. Volunteering in a leadership role with a nonprofit or bar association is a great opportunity to hone your skills. Under proper training and supervision, try pro bono cases outside your practice area. We can use our skills of advocacy, public speaking and legal knowledge in helping others.
Make sure you volunteer in an area you are passionate about. This may be working with the homeless, supporting victims of domestic violence or spreading cancer awareness. Reach out to local organizations with aligned interests and allow your volunteerism to grow naturally.
Volunteering in a nonlegal capacity can also give your mind a break. You will likely find that your productivity during work significantly increases. Dedicating yourself to a volunteer activity for a couple hours often allows new thoughts and arguments to emerge.
Some examples of organizations to get involved with include:
- School-related groups, such as your college or law school alumni association;
- Bar association entities, such as the young lawyer division of the ABA or state bar;
- Industry groups like a local forum for start-up companies;
- Community or civic groups such as a library or homeless shelter group;
- Diversity or affinity groups;
- Organized activities like an annual marathon or charity sports tournament; and
- Social or networking groups.
Pro bono work will give you a great sense of fulfillment in serving others and giving back to the community.
Set Your New Year Volunteer Goals
Eight percent of individuals typically keep their New Year’s resolution throughout the year. As young attorneys seeking to volunteer, this is especially difficult in juggling our new roles at our firms or clerkships.
Service to the legal community, whether as a volunteer for a non-profit organization or bar association, not only helps advance our core values, but also provides immeasurable benefits. Set realistic goals. Reasons may vary but remember the great responsibility the bar has allocated to you as a newly admitted attorney.
2019 is on the horizon, offering a new year for making a difference.
Raphael F. Castro, an associate at Pond Lehocky Stern Giordano, is a workers’ compensation attorney. He earned his law degree from Widener University School of Law, graduating in 2014.