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FROM THE EDITOR - Opportunity knocks

|Written By Gail J. Cohen

In law, as in many other areas of business, getting to where you want to be is in large part about who you know, not what you know. That path is not paved with gold however, but it is often who you know that opens doors and gives you opportunities.

Now don’t get me wrong, you still need to know something to take advantage of those opportunities but often getting them is the hardest part. Let’s be honest, networking is not always fun. Some people take naturally to the schmooze, for many others it can be difficult, painful even. Not everyone has natural ease and that includes many of the Poindexters who end up in law school. Smarts upstairs don’t always translate into social graces.

There are a few ways to triumph over such weaknesses however. Getting to know people is not just all about partying all night, but a party every now and then goes a long way. A group of young lawyers in Toronto decided to take a chance and set up The Toronto Young Litigator’s Group. Their aim: to have some fun, get some new lawyers together, and maybe get some insights from a couple of senior members of the bar. The group held it’s first event last month at a dark and venerable old steakhouse (replete with fireplace and beer steins hanging from the dark beams between stained glass windows). Much to even the organizer’s surprise, about 60 junior litigators showed up for cocktails and steak and to hear a couple of courtroom veterans share war stories. The best career advice of the evening: you’ve got to have personal satisfaction and get what you want out of the law even if it means volunteering, taking on pro bono work, or anything else that energizes you. The event succeeded on two fronts: good times and networking with other young litigators and some solid (even entertaining) advice from those who know. Kudos to the TYLG organizers.

Another great opportunity for improving the “who you know” score is through mentoring. Mentoring has many levels and varied opportunities. Young lawyers in big law firms are usually paired up with mentors within their own firms as part of structured mentoring programs. Others fall into mentorships through their work or outside activity. But for many new lawyers, particularly in smaller firms, mentors aren’t so easy to come by. Luckily many bar associations and law societies are there to help. They have programs to match keen young people with legal veterans who’ve volunteered to take part. But even beyond that, and I’ve heard a number of well-known, well-established lawyers say they’re happy to mentor (in some shape or form) anyone who’s willing to call them up and ask for their help.

So network it up. Go to events (but don’t overdo it because then they just become really boring), reach out to mentors from different places, write (for the fabulous Associates even), sit on boards, help organize events. You can never know too many people or have too many opportunities to make your career all you want it to be.
And don’t forget to take some time to relax (visit Vegas and have your pic snapped with a be-feathered showgirl if you must). All work and no play. . . .

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