How the power of focus can shape your legal career
There’s a great story about Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s first meeting; Mr. Gates’ mother (the host of the dinner) asked both men what, in a single word, was the most important factor for their success. Their answers were the same: “focus”. (Read the article here).
Similarly, when it comes to your legal career, the benefits of focus can be significant. Having a clear focus on your career goals can better permit you to contemplate a trajectory or growth plan along a longer event horizon. This can give you a much greater chance of achieving your objectives, no matter how lofty they may be, than if you were simply building your career on a reactionary basis.
As a legal recruitment consultant, I’ve dealt with numerous lawyers over the years who have had otherwise successful careers, but lament they ended up specializing in a practice area ‘by accident’, acknowledging it was a lack of focus or purpose in their early career that led them to the skills they possess today.
Sometimes they come to embrace this accidental career but, often, there is a frustration expressed as transitioning practice areas at a later stage in their legal careers can be daunting, particularly given how quickly the legal market can define a lawyer’s focus and specialization post call to the bar.
By contrast, one of the most remarkable young lawyers I met occurred while she was still a student. She reached out as a law student to gain perspective on what she would need to do to ultimately pursue a practice in London or New York at a major international law firm. We discussed the importance of early academic success, along with targeting top Canadian law firms with international recognition for articles as a key step to her early legal career development. Then, subsequently, waiting for the right opportunity after three years of practice to make the leap to a major international market.
While such conversations with a law student may, in and of itself, not be altogether remarkable, what was unique in this case was her follow through with her goals. Today she is thriving as a successful associate at a magic circle law firm in London (where, incidentally, we placed her). That early focus allowed her to work with a much longer event horizon and take the necessary steps to achieve the goals she set out early in her career.
Ultimately, a long-term perspective, particularly when combined with clarity and focus, can permit you to achieve both greater and more meaningful goals that may better align with your personal and professional objectives.
– Warren Smith, Managing Partner