Some lawyers considering a career as a contract lawyer worry about how easy it will be to quickly integrate into a client’s team. They are right to be concerned. Clients want contract lawyers who can “parachute in” and hit the ground running. In fact, this attribute is often what prompts clients to recommend a contract lawyer to other people in their networks.
We asked the experienced Orbit contract lawyers to share their thoughts on the best ways to achieve a “soft landing”. Here are their top seven tips.
You know the difference it makes to work with someone who has a positive attitude, compared with someone who doesn’t. It’s no different for clients who engage contract lawyers. They tell us they want the experience to be “painless”. Contract lawyers who have a positive attitude go a long way towards achieving that goal.
A positive attitude is also a great attribute for you personally. Beyond being a form of self-expression, it also helps you cope better with change and stressful situations.
There are a number of tactics you can take to maintain a positive attitude, including saying “yes” most of the time, asking how you can help, encouraging others, not complaining and not engaging in negative corridor conversations.
There are many benefits to being confident and just as many downsides to being overly confident. Finding the balance involves considering others, being honestly reflective and being willing to work on weakness and grab opportunities.
Because Orbit contract lawyers are typically quite experienced, they generally display a healthy level of confidence. This helps them boost their own brand, lift productivity for the team, and communicate in a way that promotes trust.
Forbes published an article called “How to be more Confident at Work”, which quotes William Arruda, the author of Ditch. Dare. Do!, as saying
Contract lawyers who know something about the business they are joining give themselves a genuine head start to fitting in. By simply visiting the company’s website, you can generally find the company’s vision and corporate objectives, the business they are in and what they offer. You can also look at annual reports and media and investor statements to get a sense of their issues, opportunities and strategy.
Googling the company, including checking the “news” tab, can give you a wider perspective on what’s topical for the company.
It can also be worth searching your LinkedIn network for contacts working in the client’s business or recent alumni. These people are often willing to talk to you about things worth knowing that won’t make it onto the public forums.
Our Orbit lawyers are also encouraged to meet the Corrs’ relationship partner who will be able to brief the lawyer about the matters known to them and provide other insights.
Asking good questions when you start in a new contract is a great way to quickly make a positive impression.
Harvard Business Review suggests you ask the following five questions of yourself when you start a new role: How will I create value? How am I expected to behave? Whose support is critical? How will I get some early wins? What skills do I need to develop to excel in this role?
If you then think about how to apply those questions for the client, you’ll have a good question. For example, in thinking about how you create value, ask the client about their expectations, timeframes, reporting processes, budgets and performance assessment criteria.
As a contract lawyer, the person you are reporting to is either the person who engaged you or the person who is going to report back on your value to the person who engaged you. It’s their experience of working with you, which may include how you fit into the team, that is going to matter the most. So take the time to understand what’s important to them, what they are trying to accomplish and how you can help.
It’s great that an Orbit contract lawyer made this suggestion because it’s also what we hear from clients. In fact one client said:
While “clock punching” is never appreciated by clients, doing more doesn’t necessarily mean working longer. It can involve taking on more responsibility, offering to help others or staying after work to join the team in a social activity.
The best way to make a quick and positive impact in a new contract is to show initiative. Senior contract lawyers are engaged for their expertise, so you need to find ways to show the value of that experience. If you wait to be told, you’ve waited too long.
Tips for taking initiative include offering to help others, sharing knowledge, identifying and solving problems, proactively reporting on progress, and offering to take on more responsibility.
Parachuting into a new organisation truly is an art – and is an important aspect of the “personal branding” of a contract lawyer. Do you have what it takes?
We have opportunities available for exception lawyers with 5+ PQE. You must be established as an ILP or sole practitioner, carry an unrestricted practising certificate and have PI insurance. Email or call Greg for a confidential conversation on how legal contracting can work for you.
Head of Orbit
Phone: +61 3 9672 3187