Being Confident, Confidently
I am a huge advocate of confidence. I think in the legal profession generally we are all too concerned about ensuring that we have the law and the advice right for the client, which is indeed what we, as lawyers, are paid for. Confidence is a subject that I very rarely heard about throughout my time working in private practice, it was almost something that you developed alone whilst working, which can be an extremely difficult thing to do, especially if you, like I did, lacked confidence.
As a mentor to aspiring lawyers, I see it all the time. We have spent all of our academic lives being told we are great. Being told that we excel in a lot of the subjects we are studying. Let’s face it, to get to the stage of making applications for law firms, we have all probably been doing rather well in academia. Confidence by this point in our ability might not have been an issue, but then we get to the application process which we all know is gruelling. It is at this point when we start receiving some knock backs on the journey that the confidence and self-belief in our ability to achieve seems to wash away. I haven’t been able to understand why this is.
We seemingly have to take it into our stride, whether that be if we are out networking, going to open days, or even if we work as paralegals, jump straight in and have to be confident in very unfamiliar environments. The perceived attack on confidence and self-belief does not stop there, but once you start working in the legal sector, every junior lawyer’s nightmare is receiving their work back with red pen plastered all over it. Sometimes when this happens, it is natural for us as junior lawyers to start to second guess whether we are capable and why we are not understanding things as quick as we believe things should be understood. From speaking to many junior lawyers, it seems to be a mutual feeling across the board.
I remember looking at other lawyers within my team that were slightly more qualified than me and thinking why can I not settle into this as quick or why am I not picking something up as quickly. For me, I think this is where the lack of self-confidence and self-belief is heightened when we start comparing ourselves to others. Social media has created a very small world and it is an environment where we only see the successes of people and we rarely see the failures, or the knockbacks. Therefore, when we receive some criticism, which is no doubt constructive, we tend to take it to heart rather than seeing the opportunity to learn.
There is no doubt a link between imposter syndrome and a lack of confidence. It is not uncommon amongst juniors (and I would argue beyond) for people to believe that they have got there by chance or luck. We all have to remember that wherever we are on our journey and in our career, we are there on merit. We are there for a reason and that reason is down to your hard work to date.
We need to work on our confidence as much as we do our other legal skills such as drafting, communication, teamwork etc. Confidence plays a huge part in the work that we do. You could be delivering the most sound piece of legal advice, however, if it is not delivered with confidence, a client may not take you seriously and seek a second opinion; and that could be from a superior or alike. You want to be seen as a lawyer that is able to develop their knowledge, take feedback on board and deliver confident legal work.
Developing confidence, from experience, is something that takes time and work. You need to constantly remind yourself that this is not a race where you are in competition with others. Rather, you are on your own journey, with your own timeline. It might take you a little bit longer to grasp a certain element of a deal than it would someone else, but that is not your worry. Your worry is on delivering the best you and making sure that you do so to the best of your ability. For me, the turning point was realising that I can only do the best that I can do. I am surrounded by great people and that if they are telling me something needs to be changed, adapted to reworked, then learning from this will help me develop.
This is something that I have taken into every aspect of my life and it has helped my confidence no end. I do not sit and compare myself against others because it does not help anything. Actually, if I find that I might start delving into the realms of comparison, then I will remove social media from my phone briefly to ensure that passes.
I would love to hear your stories on confidence, whether you have suffered from low-confidence and how you went about overcoming it.
By Ayaz Saboor, Founder of The Commercial Law Pathway