I work with a personal trainer who just taught me a new Orwellian phrase: Success is Failure. He was talking about the fact that in order to build muscle strength, you need to work your muscles to failure. But I think the phrase has a lot of relevance to the practice of law.
Before I explain, I just want to say for the record that I don’t plan to write anything else in this space about the recent spate of salary raises. While I reserve the right to completely change my mind (and I am perfectly fine if my guest bloggers decide there is more to write on the subject), I believe that far too much time and energy is wasted in the legal profession worrying about maximizing income in the short run. Sure, 10-15K can be a very nice addition to an already nice salary; but as I have already said in earlier posts (e.g. here and here), I believe there are much more important things to worry about in the long run.
For example, aren’t you better off in the long run if you work for a firm where you are valued, where you have a shot at partnership and where you are being mentored on how to build a practice? You will earn a lot more in the long run if you can market effectively and you will be much more successful in marketing yourself if you enjoy what you do and are given a lot of opportunities to get visibility, meet clients, etc.
Which leads us back to Success is Failure. In sales, it is important to fail. If you don’t fail, then you aren’t doing enough because nobody lands every prospective client. Failure is a sign that you are taking some risks.
So try to practice at a firm that is happy that you are trying to build your visibility and pleased that you are meeting potential referral sources. Join a firm that accepts failure as part of the business development process. If you simply choose to maximize income in the short run, you may find that your short term success leads to long term failure. In the short run, the firm that is paying top dollar may expect you to bill out maximum hours leaving little time for anything else. If you take the long view, then you may fail to maximize income in the short run; but you will experience much more long term success.