Relationships are key to success in any legal practice environment. From day one, you should have clear goals for initiating and building on your workplace relationships.
Relationship building is an art. And like anything else, it takes a little patience and practice. It also takes some negotiating – no two relationship dynamics are alike. Still, there are some fundamental, fool-proof ways to initiate and develop relationships with any colleagues:
1. Make a great introduction
The first impression you make on your colleagues will be an important one. In the first days and months of your career, make a point of making the rounds and introducing yourself to your colleagues (do not introduce yourself over email – physically getting up and walking around will evidence that you care about integrating into your office). When you stop by a colleagues office, knock (even if the door is open). Be sure you are visiting them at a convenient time. Express confidence (stand upright, speak clearly), enthusiasm, and sincerity in your dialogue. Make the introduction meaningful but quick – you want to be memorable while being conscientious of your colleagues’ time. Be sure to mention that you look forward to working with him or her – after all, relationship building in an office environment begins by collaborating professionally.
2. Do great work
Once you start getting assignments from attorneys in your practice, it will be imperative that you do great work. This begins at the assignment phase (listen carefully, take good notes, ask smart follow up questions). While working on the assignment, keep a thoughtful, open dialogue with the assigning attorney while still showing independence and initiative. Finally, turn the assignment in on time and in the manner that was requested. These small steps are critical in the relationship building process and in your success as a young lawyer. The better your work, the better your relationship with your colleagues.
Finally, you should network regularly with your colleagues. The social aspect of your relationship with colleagues can be almost as important as your working relationship. A healthy social relationship strengthens connections, builds loyalty, and allows you to demonstrate a more versatile (less formal) persona. Make a point of getting lunch or a drink with your colleagues from time to time. Get to know your colleagues outside of work (with appropriate boundaries, of course – the relationships shouldn’t actually be “complicated”) so that your relationships have depth beyond strictly work.
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Building and maintaining relationships will be an important part of your job as a young lawyer. Set this in motion early and in no time you will be a central member of your legal practice.
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