Starting a career as a lawyer is complicated. First, having no real practical experience, it is difficult to know what area of law will appeal to you. This also does not take into account your long-term career opportunities, and if there are even positions available in that area at the present time.

A good starting point is to think about what you want to do long-term and the necessary steps to achieve that goal. Some junior attorneys are fortunate and are able to slide into a job (whether a law firm or in-house) and it just happens naturally through hard work with that one employer. For most, it requires multiple steps to get there. For example, if your desire is to work at a top law firm, but the opportunity did not exist for you upon graduation, it is important to plan what steps you should take to get there. In particular, start working at smaller firm and try to develop the experience that will be coveted for career advancement. The work itself is important, but also focus on business generation (start small but make the effort). It’s also important to understand that it may take several moves to ultimately get to where you want to be (i.e. small firm to medium firm to your desired large firm). The same is true of making the move in-house. Most need to build a base (typically doing transactional work) at a law firm before making the move to a company. Of course, this may also require moving up the chain with law firms in order to maximize in-house opportunities.

Career planning can seem a bit overwhelming when you’re just starting out as a lawyer, but it can really make the difference in achieving your goals. Unfortunately, in the practice of law it can be very difficult to make a detour if you are going down the wrong path, so it’s best to plan ahead and think strategically about your career progression.