It is essential to be professional if you want to be successful, but what does “being a professional” mean? It could mean dressing the part at work, or it could mean performing well at your job. It could also mean attaining professional degrees or other certifications. Professionalism includes all of these things and even more.
At Nebraska Law we think Professionalism is important enough that it has been incorporated into the first-year curriculum through Foundational Legal Skills: Research, Writing and Professionalism. Starting in the fall of 2012, with the class of 2015, all first-year students will be introduced to different facets of professionalism in a series of lectures that will challenge them to consider how they personally define professionalism.
The information shared on the tabs below represents only a few of the aspects of professionalism – those that often show up on our frequently asked questions list. The information is by no means comprehensive which is why the CSO Office is open to and welcomes your questions. Feel free to stop in or firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment.
For another take on the fundamental values of the legal profession, check out this document outlining the results of an American Bar Association Task Force on the topic.
Networking often gets a bad rap by those who characterize it as limited to awkward conversations at wine and cheese parties, or using people to get what you want. That is unfortunate. In essence, networking is simply building and maintaining relationships. Optimally, the relationships are mutually beneficial, and although some choose to differentiate between personal and professional networking, both are important for professional success.
The CSO works to assist you with networking by providing opportunities to develop new professional friendships & associations with our alumni and members of the bar. However, don’t ever underestimate the importance of the relationships you form with your classmates and others in the community. These informal networks and the impression you make on those around you will hopefully be the source of many referrals for the rest of your professional career. Think about the networking efforts you make as developing a people resource bank that pays interest and dividends on your investment as long as you keep the account open.
There are many networking opportunities available to you at the law college over the academic year. The CSO invites many practicing attorneys to the law college for programming over the year to sit on panels or make presentations on their areas of expertise. In addition, your professors will invite guest lecturers, and there will be Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminars that draw hundreds of alumni to the auditorium. All these opportunities are available to help you to make connections.
Networking opportunities abound outside the law college as well. Consider attending all or part of the Nebraska State Bar Association Annual Meeting. What about joining a Young Professionals Group or an affinity bar association like the Midlands Bar or the Nebraska Women’s Bar Association? Simply being active in the community with a non-profit organization of your choice can lead to many exciting opportunities.
Social Media is a huge part of our world today and it is one of the most common networking forums around. It is imperative that you maintain your professionalism not just in face-to-face communications but online as well. LinkedIn, Twitter and even Facebook are great ways to make connections, market your skills and even search for employment but you need to be conscious of how you are presenting yourself.
We host programs each year on Networking and How to Create Your Own Personal Brand. I encourage you to attend but also know that there are many resources to assist you if you are ready to move forward on increasing your skill level with using social media to build your professional presence.
We have multiple copies of the book The 6Ps of the Big 3 for Job-Seeking JDs by Amanda C. Ellis, Esq. available for check-out from the CSO Resource Library. The six “Ps” referred to are:
The “Big 3” refers to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. The entire book is devoted to helping you make the most of your use of social media as a law student to help find employment both in school and post-graduation.
Nonverbal elements play an important role in the interview process and in all professional interactions. Handshakes, eye contact, posture, dress are important considerations. People make assumptions about your professional credibility and potential performance based upon your appearance. It’s very difficult to overcome a poor first impression.
If you have any questions about dressing in a professional manner, please contact the CSO and we can help you on a case-by-case basis!
Etiquette, and specifically business etiquette, is incredibly important in the legal profession. You will need to become familiar with the rules of etiquette in order to know how to handle a variety of situations. Whether you realize it or not, people pay attention to etiquette. These rules govern our behavior and it is assumed that polished manners translate into polished work. Make your manners shine by following the simple rules contained in this guide.
Learning how to correspond with colleagues, business professionals, and potential employers is absolutely necessary when learning to communicate effectively as a soon-to-be lawyer. Cover letters will be your most common form of correspondence, but there are a variety of other types of correspondence with which you should become familiar. For additional guidance, make an appointment to talk to a career services counselor.