I have worked in Biglaw, in-house, and as the CEO of a legal tech business, and throughout these different environments, I have noticed some patterns. Patterns of success if you will. But they aren’t highly complicated. And, they do not include zigzagging between 18-hour workdays and three different jobs. They are simple — yet effective — patterns. Two of the most powerful of these factors for success are learning and leverage.
Learning — The King Of The Hill
We are in the later stages of the transition from a degree-based economy to a skills-based one. Your qualifications are gradually becoming worthless because businesses have begun valuing what you can do more than where you studied. Now more than ever, hirers are paying attuning to the small sections of your CV listing your skills and other abilities. Applicants who have taken some online programming courses may be hired over a person with an IT degree, simply because they are more proficient.
In some ways, this shows a greater initiative to build up several “micro-credentials” for yourself, suggesting that it would be highly valuable to learn a variety of new things. Employers increasingly seek out this level of initiative. With the advent of online learning platforms like Skillshare, Udemy, and Brilliant, upskilling has never been easier.
Learning is not just done online, however, it is done by building experience, as well. You can plan as much as you like, thinking about things from every conceivable angle, but I can guarantee that, when it comes down to making your plans happen, there will be factors that surprise you. Things that you did not expect would happen or even things that you did not know existed. Sometimes the fastest way to learn is just to dive head into it and wait for the mistakes to start teaching you.
The secret to being the King (or Queen!) of the Hill is to keep growing, to continue upskilling. Your knowledge should not just grow in terms of depth, but breadth, as well. You want to master your field but should be competent in other ones too. This doesn’t just give you job security; it gives you options.
Leverage — Accept The Augmentation
Then there is leverage, which is something of a hot topic in the corporate world. This is not new. The basic idea is that you utilize one thing to achieve something greater. If you have leverage, you’re an aerodynamic leaf with sails, and you won’t just be caught up in the wind, you’ll harness it.
Currently, the biggest form of leverage is technology. Developments such as the internet, AI, and blockchain have allowed you to do things you never would have been able to before. When it comes to technology, you cannot deny its impact. That is not to say that you must embrace all of it, nor that technology is always the answer.
Leo Cherne once said, “The computer is incredibly fast, accurate, and stupid. Man is unbelievably slow, inaccurate, and brilliant. The marriage of the two is a force beyond calculation.” Leverage is marrying skills and advantages. They make a power couple. Like AI and contract review, or musicians and apps like Spotify. As a lawyer or an employee, you leverage yourself by doing the things that machines can’t do, making yourself indispensable by taking on roles that can be neither automated nor eradicated.
Adding Value — The Pinnacle
The culmination of learning and leverage is found in the basic principle of adding value. Whether you are an employer, employee, or freelancer, at the end of the day, you are paid to add value. That may be through a service you offer, or the unique input and perspective you bring to a meeting. Whatever it is, you can add value by learning and then leveraging yourself and your abilities. Learning a new programming language could help you recognize flaws in your system or taking a course on public speaking could increase your sales. Even something like researching empathy could improve what you bring to the table.
For you, the modern lawyer –- or the modern employee in general –- upskilling, outworking, and expanding will put you a cut above the rest. Leveraging your unique selling points and technology will catapult you leagues above where you are now. Such is the power of the simplistic patterns of learning and leverage, the two main components in the framework of adding value.
Olga V. Mack is the CEO of Parley Pro, a next-generation contract management company that has pioneered online negotiation technology. Olga embraces legal innovation and had dedicated her career to improving and shaping the future of law. She is convinced that the legal profession will emerge even stronger, more resilient, and more inclusive than before by embracing technology. Olga is also an award-winning general counsel, operations professional, startup advisor, public speaker, adjunct professor, and entrepreneur. She founded the Women Serve on Boards movement that advocates for women to participate on corporate boards of Fortune 500 companies. She authored Get on Board: Earning Your Ticket to a Corporate Board Seat and Fundamentals of Smart Contract Security. You can follow Olga on Twitter @olgavmack.