This week in Young, Hungry and Committed, Vivian Sobers, virtual office NYC lawyer, explains how she overcame insecurities about legal skills after starting a practice directly out of law school.
My practice recently celebrated its one year anniversary. To celebrate, I wanted to share the most successful marketing campaign I implemented during its first year: self-confidence.
One of my biggest fears about starting a law practice immediately after graduation was being confronted with a legal issue that I did not know how to solve.
My route to solo practice is probably much different from most of colleagues. I had zero experience before naming myself principal of Sobers Law, PLLC. Sure, I had worked law firms in some capacity or other for 10 years, but never as an attorney.
While employed as a clerk, I developed deference and respect for the firm’s attorneys. I could not even imagine my own skills and persuasive abilities coming anywhere close to theirs.
When I decided that self-employment was the only route for me, I innately compared myself against them. No matter which lens I viewed myself through, I always fell short.
I would often question my own self-worth, wondering why anyone would even want to hire me. Needless to say, self-confidence was not one of my strong suits. My legal insecurity even manifested itself in bad posture.
Looking back on it, even when I thought I was standing tall, I slouched.
Here is how I learned to stand tall.
Next, I turned to my NYC shared office space colleagues to help me out. The law firm office space where my firm is located is exclusively for attorneys. When I had a question, I would ask one of the attorneys there.
The beauty of the system is grounded in its diversity. It is not a typical office. Attorneys of all different practice areas share the same space. When I had a question, there was always someone willing to answer it as they know the favor will one day be returned.
Their willingness to suffer through my questions was admirable, especially in light of the frequency of my inquiries. Since I had not yet realized I could trust my legal acumen, I asked a ton of simple questions.
I leveraged advice from my community and took as many CLE’s as possible. Many lawyers bemoan the CLE requirement, but as a young solo attorney, I have found them invaluable. It was through CLE’s that I learned the mechanics of consumer bankruptcy. It was through CLE’s that I learned the ins-and-outs of judgment enforcement.
The moment I realized my skills were self-sustaining.
After a while, I realized something truly surprising. I already had the fundamental tools I needed to tackle any legal issue presented. What I lacked was the confidence in my own abilities.
I was so deferential to other attorneys that I forgot that I too was one of them. I had given deference to everyone myself.
This feeling was cemented when I sought the advice of an established attorney on a legal issue. I was pretty sure I knew the answer. I mean, I had researched the issue for a few hours using the free research tools at NYCLA.
In the middle of our conversation, I realized the attorney did not know the answer. He was working out the issue in real time, just as I had previously done.
This was liberating. I no longer felt chained to inadequacy and the paralyzing fear of not knowing everything. We were not different. We were both attorneys who were working out the facts of the case, together.
I was not seeking the ultimate answer to the legal problem. In asking questions, I was seeking confirmation of my abilities. I was seeking a reason to be confident.
It just took me a little longer to realize I always had what I needed.
My name is Vivian Sobers. I am young, hungry and self-confident. I have weathered one year of challenges in private practice. Despite the challenges that lie ahead, I am committed to replicating my success for many years to come.
Vivian Sobers is a commercial litigator pursuing a solo law practice right out of law school. She is a client in Law Firm Suites’ Virtual Office Program. Vivian’s weekly blog series “Young, Hungry and Committed” documents the trials and tribulations of a young attorney navigating her way through the challenging world of self-employed legal practice.