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The So-Called Experts’ So-Called Experts . . . and So Forth: On Pressure-Less Professional Reputation Construction

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Every self-proclaimed expert out there is telling everyone who asks, and who will listen, that the way to true happiness = business success, is to similarly proclaim expertise — hence, the proliferation of thrown-around terms like ‘guru’, ‘visionary’, the aforementioned ‘expert’, ‘genius’, ‘messiah’, what have you, and whatever else you can draw from the overflowing pile of businessperson descriptions tending to the use of as much terminology as one can muster to signify one’s own undeniable awesomeness.

Not that it’s bad to end up developing expertise; but, expertise should be developed in its own time. If you’re fresh out of law school trying to start a practice, or if you haven’t actually developed any settled expertise, you’re not an expert, and you can’t effectively market yourself that way — no matter what the gurus of uber-self-confidence may say otherwise.

Certainly, you should develop a niche. And, you should seek to create yourself as a go-to source in your niche for colleagues and clients. And, you should seek to develop specialties in fact. (But, be careful of how you market yourself in those three wise.) You should endeavor, as well, to project self-confidence, even when you’re not feeling, yourself, particularly commanding. And, some of that is fake-it-until-you-make-it kind of stuff. Mindset is important, no doubt.

But, you can also psyche yourself out. Being an expert, even a self-modeled expert, carries with it a lot of pressure, especially for young and starting attorneys, who already have a perfection complex to begin with (especially after law school), and who tend to equate ‘expertise’ with ‘perfection’. Mindset is important; and, new attorneys who begin their practice lives with the wrong cast of mind can set themselves back. It’s okay to not have an immediate answer for clients — it’s better than providing an answer based in ignorance. It’s not an admission of defeat to read a primer on a topic, to seek further assistance from a colleague or mentor, or even to refer cases out, as appropriate. Neither should new attorneys seek to take every case that comes through the door (even those that carry the promise of ready cash), especially when those cases are outside of their developing niche, or when those cases would stretch them too far beyond their existing comfort level, too soon. Knowing everything, on the fly, without need of further resources or research; having the ability to take on any case, no matter how complex, at any time, and for any client. These are, apparently, things that experts can do. But, you don’t have to do them if you’re not an expert.

Rather than downloading an already sizeable task (starting out in the practice of law) with the added weight of a demanding, and essentially immature, expertise, take a load off instead. At the outset, let your niche, pricing and style of practice be what differentiates you. Talk/write about what you enjoy in your practice and/or what interests you, within specific areas of your practice. Don’t propose to have all the answers; reference more senior attorneys, or found mentors. Make sure that you like what you’re doing, and the ways in which you’re doing it. If you’re not having fun, it’s like you’re doing chores — and nobody wants to do chores ( . . . or, maybe they do). There is a reason why this is called ‘professional development’ and not ‘the immediately well-rounded professionalism of the recent law graduate’. You’re not a fully-formed/fully-grown professional coming direct out of law school, or any school, for that matter. Don’t add the additional and tremendous pressure to the transition of the attachment of an expertise to yourself that does not yet exist, no matter what you hear.

But, don’t feel so bad: the entirety of life is a learning experience; and, that’s the way it should be. Even if you get to a point where you can pretend a complete expertise, there will be plenty of things occurring to make you feel inadequate. There is no truth to the rumor that someone has ‘seen it all’. There is always more to see. Society and the law are so complex, including administratively complex, that there will always be another twist or turn that you did not see coming, and with which you’ll have to deal, hopefully with a lithe mind, unfixed to a certain notion of what expertise you should be required to have. As a new attorney, more than anything else, you need to allow yourself time and space to grow in the profession. Rather than focusing solely on the most immediate achievement of the end-goal, do it right: acknowledge the process, and be present in it.

. . .

Liner Notes

There are actual gurus, of course . . . like me and Rodney Dowell . . .

Easy, easy. I’m kidding. I can’t possibly be given over to complete hypocrisy in the span of a single paragraph . . . It would take at least two. (I said easy . . .)

Those original gurus are those Hindu/Buddhist teachers that you hear about–you know, the ones who inadvertently gave rise to Mike Myers’ latest attempt at a career resurrection post-“Austin Powersfranchise work: the awful “The Love Guru”. (Although, he had a sweet run for a while there; “So I Married an Axe Murderer” is an excellent film.)

Gurus do dabble in music from time to time, including Bhagavan Das, who also found time to convert Richard Alpert, who I always thought was saved by Lapidus.

Indian spiritualism, and the music generated therefrom has, of course, played a role in popular music since, at least, the 1960s.

The Beatles famously introduced the sitar to pop music via George Harrison via Ravi Shankar in “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)”, and inLove You To” and “The Inner Light”, despite John Lennon’s coming disillusionment, exemplified by his attack on the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, tempered down, at George Harrison’s request, to “Sexy Sadie”.

re generally, ‘raga rock’ gained some traction in the mid-60s, with the underrated The Kinks’ “See My Friends”, Traffic’s “Paper Sun”, the Moody Blues’ “Om” and the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black”.

But, the party was over when Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show began poking fun.

And, late versions have been, uom . . . not so good.

Some more obscure songs related to this line, and that I like, include the Buffalo Springfield’s “Buffalo Stomp (Raga)” and Yusuf’s “Indian Ocean”.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to open my Chakras, and to have a Twinkie, before I can’t anymore.

CATEGORIES: Career Planning & Transition | Client Relations | Law Practice Startup | Lawyer's Quality of Life | Marketing | Planning | Risk Management

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