Thinking about your future can bring forth many emotions, especially if the future looks challenging and uncertain. That's why it may be easy for time-challenged lawyers to avoid the exercise. If you are going to retire in the next few years, skip this blog post. Otherwise, invest thirty minutes this week reading the articles I have linked here. If you need inspiration to think about this, just start with the following feature story from the July 2011 ABA Journal Law Job Stagnation May Have Started Before the Recession—And It May Be a Sign of Lasting Change. Quite a few observers of the legal industry have drawn some of the same conclusions. Just to make certain you click on the link to the story, here's the "money quote" from the article:

  • "For most lawyers, survival will depend upon their ability to harness technology to deliver greater value to clients at a cost that declines—yes, declines—over time. The biggest challenge for law firms will be transitioning away from internal firm metrics that reward billable hours and discourage or prohibit the crucial trial-and-error experimentation needed to create, refine and market more innovative work processes that do more with less." Id.

So go read the article to see how the authors reached that conclusion.

But the future brings promise as well as challenges. Maybe none of us will see that future where one can make a living as a "Space Lawyer," but it is not hard to see new and emerging areas of law practice.Space_lawyer

But a good opportunity to chart your future appears this month in another ABA publication, the "Careers" issue of Law Practice magazine (July/August 2011.) The Time to Take a Leap feature begins with an important story by a good friend of mine. Lawyers Join the Free Agent Nation by Stephen P. Gallagher charts how career paths have changed for lawyers just as the idea of life-long employment with a single company has changed for the majority of the American work force. The is followed by 10 Steps to Prepare Yourself for a Graceful Launch by John H. Snyder. Although this is written for a hypothetical associate about to leave the big firm, it is good reading for anyone taking stock of your career. The feature then focuses on several lawyers and their successful career changes.

But, wait, you might say, "I really am my law practice at  this point and there's really nowhere to leap." (Joke in poor taste omitted.)  It is certainly true that for many lawyers, from solo/small firm lawyers to partners in larger law frims that they could change their address or their partners, but the clients that they serve are their law practice. Absent taking a salaried job and shuttering a private practice, they may feel  certain that they are not looking at career change.

As suggested by the ABA Journal article on stagnation, you may have the choice of reinventing your practice or watching while others reinvent it for you. So continue your tour of the Careers edition of Law Practice magazine by reading Make the Right Move: Career Assessment Tools by Wendy L. Werner for some ideas on learning about yourself, Optimizing Your Online Shingle: On-Page and Off-Page Best Practices by Bob Ambrogi and Steve Matthews and enjoy the fun of Sharon Nelson and John Simek discussing using an iPad in your law practice. In the Ask Bill column, Bill Gibson talks with me and Tom Mighell about social media for lawyers.

Whether you are a new lawyer or law student entering the job market, who should read the entire Careers edition of Law Practice magazine or you want to pick and choose, there's a lot in Law Practice magazine, this month and every month and I'd say that even if I wasn't on the magazine's editorial board.