How to Become an SVP and In-House Lawyer for the Boston Red Sox
Ending up as a lawyer for the Boston Red Sox wasn’t a career David S. Friedman envisioned. What does it take to be in-house counsel with one of Major League Baseball's top teams? How do you launch a career in sports law? Find out how Dave went from a government lawyer to Senior Vice President, Legal & Government Affairs for the Red Sox, and Senior Counsel for Fenway Sports Group.
Shauna C. Bryce’s interview with David S. Friedman, Esq., SVP, Legal & Government Affairs for the Boston Red Sox. With supplemental interviews and career advice from Deborah Ben-Canaan, Esq. of Major, Lindsey & Africa; Dina F. Cappuccio, Esq. of Advocate Consulting; Melba Hughes of Major, Lindsey & Africa; and Jared Redick of The Redick Group.
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Ending up as a lawyer for the Boston Red Sox wasn’t a career David S. Friedman envisioned.
I’ve known Dave since 1993 when we started as classmates at Harvard Law School, and if someone had told him back then he’d be working at Fenway Park, he would have laughed and said no way.
Let me start by explaining that “the Red Sox” in this context is both literal and shorthand.
In the 2014 article Red Sox Nation Goes Global, Forbes senior editor Kurt Badenhausen tracked the aggressive and innovative expansion of Fenway Sports Group (FSG). Badenhausen called FSG “the most sophisticated, synergistic player in the coming age of international sports conglomerates,” characterizing FSG as a “sports conglomerate that’s integrated vertically, horizontally—and globally.”
FSG was founded in 2001 as New England Sports Ventures (NESV). Today, the massive FSG conglomerate encompasses more than the Major League Baseball (MLB) team the Boston Red Sox and its historic Fenway Park stadium. It also includes Premier League soccer club Liverpool F.C. and Anfield, its stadium in Liverpool, U.K. In addition, FSG owns 80% of the New England Sports Network (NESN) with minority owner the Boston Bruins, and owns 50% of the NASCAR team Roush Fenway Racing.
FSG’s wholly owned subsidiary, Fenway Sports Management (FSM), was originally established as the Red Sox’s sales and marketing arm. Today, FSM is a leading sports marketing agency with a diverse portfolio of brands and athletes. FSM also owns the Salem Red Sox minor league baseball franchise.
The Red Sox are known for their commitment to their fans and their community, and so another major component of the FSG empire is the Red Sox Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charity and FSG’s award-winning philanthropic arm. Having devoted more than $81.5 million to charitable activity, it’s also one of the biggest team charities in all of sports, with programs focusing on families and kids’ health, education, recreation, and social services.
In short, sports teams—and by extension, sports law—have gone from single-city, single-activity operations to multinational, multi-activity enterprises. The Red Sox are big business.
The Making of a Sports Lawyer
How did Dave Friedman end up at the Red Sox? “It was an accident,” he says. “A lot of it was being in the right place at the right time.”
Like Dave himself, that answer is modest. (Seriously, Dave is one of the nicest guys you could possibly meet.) It doesn’t, however, tell you about the combination of brilliance, hard work, dedication, training, good luck, mentoring, and circuitous path that put him in the right place at the right time. So here’s the full story.
Dave’s initial interest was the public sector. It would be an understatement to say he was an exceptional student. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1993. That year, his two-person team won the World Universities Debating Championship, the world’s largest debating tournament. He stayed in Cambridge to attend Harvard Law School. As a second-year law student, his high GPA meant he was automatically selected for Harvard Law Review. That same year, he was elected president of Harvard Law Review—the same position held by Barack Obama when he was a law student. Dave was also president when U.S. presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz was a law review editor.
Dave graduated magna cum laude from HLS in 1996. After graduation, he clerked for Judge Michael Boudin of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit—who later became the appellate court’s chief judge—and then for U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.
Still committed to a legal career of public service after his clerkships, Dave became a litigator and public law attorney for Hill & Barlow, one of Boston’s oldest and most prestigious law firms. In addition to serving corporate clients, he took on a pro bono class action on behalf of more than 3,000 Massachusetts residents with mental disabilities who had been wait-listed for state assistance. His team won their clients services worth more than $100 million annually, in a groundbreaking ruling in federal district court. In his spare time, Dave ran and lost for a State Representative seat on a platform focused on education and healthcare, and he volunteered on national and state political causes.
Suddenly in 2002, after 107 years in operation, Hill & Barlow shocked the legal industry by dissolving after groups of partners jumped ship to the quickly growing Piper Rudnick (now megafirm DLA Piper) and the global intellectual property and litigation firm Fish & Richardson. Hill & Barlow’s demise was part of a greater transformation in the law services industry brought about by rapid mergers and acquisitions, as law firms moved from being single-city entities to national—and now multinational—legal service providers working on complex deals worldwide.
With stellar credentials, law firm training, and professional networks, Dave quickly landed a position in the Massachusetts Senate President’s Office as Counsel and Chief Policy Advisor for State Senate President Robert E. Travaglini. In a 2003 interview for the Massachusetts Bar Association’s “Lawyer Journal: Anatomy of a breakup: Hill & Barlow employees analyze firm’s demise, impact,” Dave said, “I was very fortunate to have this opportunity arise…. It’s very different from the law firm world, and I wouldn’t have ended up in this new job if I hadn’t been able to volunteer.” During the next four years, Dave worked on healthcare, economic development, and other policy issues.
His last stop before joining the Red Sox was three years in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. He was hired right out of the gate to serve as First Assistant Attorney General under Martha Coakley, an alumna of Williams College and Boston University School of Law. As Coakley’s top aide, Dave managed an office of 490 attorneys, investigators, and other staff. He also supervised civil and criminal law enforcement, as well as representation of state agencies. The broad jurisdiction of the AG’s Office allowed Dave to work closely with Coakley on state law and policy issues ranging from marriage equality to corruption to the mortgage lending crisis.
The Red Sox Gain a Purple Squirrel
So how does a government lawyer end up at the Red Sox?
In 2009, Dave’s former boss, former Massachusetts Senate President Robert E. Travaglini —although not a lawyer himself—heard of the corporate legal department’s opening and put Dave in touch with the Red Sox. Alan Dershowitz, who had been Dave’s and my first-year criminal law professor at HLS and who personally knew some of the Red Sox’s owners, served as a reference in the hiring process.
As it turned out, there was a strong correlation between what Dave was working on at the AG’s Office and what the Red Sox needed—both had a strong policy element. Dave’s ability to toggle between advocacy and policy, and between corporate interests and government law, was critical.
Jared Redick, founder and principal of The Redick Group in San Francisco — who I asked, along with several legal recruiters, to comment on Dave's career path and career development and job search lessons for lawyers — says, “The most interesting roles can emerge out of a seemingly disparate mastery of skills. When blended, those skills can create the needle-in-a-haystack candidate that so many companies seek.” [Get “Jared Redick’s Job Description Analysis," a tool that helps people identify the intersection between where they’ve been and where they want to go.]
Melba Hughes, a co-managing partner in In-House Practice Group in the Atlanta office of preeminent legal and executive search firm Major, Lindsey & Africa, adds: “Law firm practice develops technical legal skills. Judicial clerkships lead to a greater understanding of how laws are applied and interpreted. They strengthen legal reasoning and legal writing skills. But companies aren’t in the business of practicing law. In-house lawyers need to be able to think and work strategically with business people.” In Dave’s case, Melba notes his experience working in different environments and with different types of people was an asset.
Dave is what legal and executive recruiters call a “purple squirrel,” says Dina F. Cappuccio, Esq., founder and principal of the legal recruiting firm Advocate Consulting, as well as a long-time friend and colleague of mine from my days on a law firm hiring committee. “In addition to his obviously stellar academic credentials and achievements, Dave had a unique background that combined experience in distinct and very relevant areas.” Each position prepared him, in its own way, for the opportunity with the Red Sox. Dina explains: “As a litigator at a prestigious firm and later with the government, Dave honed his advocacy skills in multiple contexts. In his very different role as a policy advisor for the Massachusetts State Senate President, he had the opportunity to work on major policy issues and see first-hand the inner-workings of state government. At the Massachusetts AG’s office, he’d held real leadership and managerial roles.” In other words, he was that almost theoretical perfect candidate standing out in a marketplace of many solid lawyers: a purple squirrel.
Clearly the Red Sox agreed.
“When Dave came up, there was no question in my mind that we were going to reach out to him and hire him because he’s not the regular kind of guy that comes in the sports door,” then-Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino said in a 2014 conversation at Harvard Law School. (Since my initial interview with Dave in August 2015, Lucchino announced his retirement and transitioned to President / CEO Emeritus. Sam Kennedy, the team’s Chief Operating Officer who has worked with Lucchino since 1996, took over in October 2015.) “He’s different. His background and academic pedigree were so different.” Part of Lucchino’s success in sports management has been due to careful hiring of people like Dave—which has become more important as the sports industry has become bigger and more sophisticated. “Years ago,” Lucchino said, “the team lawyer used to be the fishing buddy of the owner…. [Now] in baseball and a lot of sports, we go to unconventional places to look for people to hire and we’ve broadened the hiring base. I think that’s made a difference.”
After being interviewed and approved by Ed Weiss, FSG General Counsel and Executive Vice President of Corporate Strategy, Dave officially joined the Red Sox legal team in 2010 as one of several corporate counsel.
Glamour and Misconceptions about Sports Law
There are a lot of misconceptions about attorneys in the sports industry. For example, people usually assume Dave has a lot of personal contact with big name players. “They imagine me at the negotiating table with David Ortiz and his agent.”
The reality is that the MLB’s collective bargaining agreement includes a model player contract that eliminates the need for that kind of back and forth. “There’s not a lot of complex lawyering left to do when it comes to individual contract negotiations,” Dave says. “It’s mostly business decisions.”
Sports law has always been considered a dream job, says Deborah Ben-Canaan, a partner based in the Washington, DC office of Major, Lindsey & Africa and the leader of its DC In-House Practice Group. “Whenever we recruit for a team general counsel, we are inundated with hundreds of résumés from lawyers who fell in love with the sports team as a kid, or who envision the role involves a lot of player interaction and glamour.” Dave’s experience at the Red Sox, says Deb, is more typical of lawyers in the sports industry, even at the GC level: “Many of the legal issues that surround being the general counsel of a sports team are no different than those that other GCs may face.” Actual player interaction is minimal—both by the nature of Dave’s work and by his choice. “Meeting players is part of the unique opportunity of being here.
But I generally stay out of their way. The players already have so much to do. They have to deal with so many people.” Dave’s limited interaction with players occurs at team charity events, and he attends about half of the team’s home games.
Dave’s role in the complex FSG conglomerate primarily falls into four areas. First, working with the team’s general counsel, he interacts with MLB on league-wide policies and rules relating to the autonomy of baseball clubs, the collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union, and other issues that have a legal component. He also leads the legal-side of government affairs and compliance with state and city government regulations related to Fenway Park’s operations and special events (like Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary celebration in 2012), which include a huge range of issues like construction, real estate, tax, environmental law, ticket sale and resale, public events, and alcohol sales. He’s a board member and the legal adviser to the Red Sox Foundation. Lastly, Dave works with the general counsel on litigation and disputes.
Throughout, Dave supports the Red Sox commitment to corporate social responsibility through community outreach, public-private partnerships, and responsiveness to the needs of its community and fans.
[Watch Dave discuss the Red Sox Foundation’s work and impact as part of his 2015 TEDxBeaconStreet talk.]
Mentors have played a major role in Dave’s legal career at the Red Sox.
As a life-long baseball fan (although his New York childhood involved family loyalty to the Yankees), Dave understood generally how the baseball industry worked—he knew what it meant to be a free agent and knew baseball had a salary cap. “But I couldn’t have taught a course on sports law,” he jokes during our chat. “I didn’t know the specifics of baseball antitrust.” While some of the issues sports lawyers deal with go to the heart of the game, many are common business problems. “They’re the same business law issues that any large entity would have,” Dave says, relating to things like vendors, construction, and tax. He also learned a lot on the job. “I have amazing and incredibly talented people to work with who really know what they’re doing.”
Those on-the-job mentors include General Counsel and EVP Ed Weiss—who is a Harvard College and University of Pennsylvania Law School graduate; the former Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of Time Warner; a former commercial litigator at Cravath, Swaine, and Moore; and a former law clerk for the late Hon. Jay C. Waldman, U.S.D.J. (E.D. Pa.). Weiss left Time Warner after some 13 years to join the Red Sox as General Counsel in September 2009, arriving shortly before Dave was interviewed to join the legal team.
Another of Dave’s mentors at the Red Sox is President and CEO Emeritus Larry Lucchino, who has a long history in sports law and sports team management and who is committed to mentoring. Also a lawyer, Lucchino graduated from Princeton University and Yale Law School, where he was a classmate of Hillary Clinton and a year ahead of Bill Clinton. After law school, Lucchino was a litigator at leading Washington, DC law firm Williams & Connolly, where he worked on matters for Baltimore’s baseball team and Washington’s football team, before stints as President / CEO of the Baltimore Orioles and the San Diego Padres.
“Hearing and messaging the stories of executives and c-suite members every day,” says Jared Redick of The Redick Group, “I’m still surprised by how many cite their networks as a big part of their success. It’s hard to overstate the essential place that genuine connections and relationships play in career development. Unfortunately, too many people try to develop relationships only after they’ve started actively thinking about a new role when in fact, they should have started years earlier.”
[Watch a lively 2014 conversation with Lucchino and Dave in the Harvard Law School series “The Boss & Counsel,” hosted by HLS Dean Martha Minow, another of Dave’s former professors with whom he built a long-term relationship. Explaining how his mentor, Ed Williams, founder of Williams & Connolly and then owner of the Baltimore Orioles, helped him move from being a sports lawyer into being a sports industry executive, Lucchino says he’s determined to help Dave make the same leap.]
Dave himself is generous with sharing advice, and he continues to be active with not only Harvard, but also with other law schools, bar associations, professional associations, and leadership events like TEDxBeaconStreet 2015.
The Role of In-House Counsel
Law firms often push lawyers into tightly focused niches, while in-house departments are often the opposite. Whether a particular in-house position is general or niched depends a lot upon the size of the legal department relative to the complexity of the company it serves. A lawyer in a multinational pharmaceutical company with 400 in-house attorneys may have a super-specialized job, “but if you’re one of four or five attorneys for a baseball organization, your work is going to be much more general,” Dave explains.
Even more important is the different perspective between outside counsel and internal corporate legal departments. The law firm experience, especially for associates, is sometimes compartmentalized. As Dave describes it, “Someone comes to you with an issue, you write a memo, you give them an answer, and you’re done, end of story.”
In contrast, in-house counsel of all levels must have a strong sense of overall corporate objectives, and be mindful of those objectives at all times. “To be a really good in-house lawyer, you have to really understand your company and the overall operation. That involves asking the questions, but also listening and being curious.” As in-house counsel, Dave says, “You’re not trying to solve discrete legal problems in a vacuum. You have to really understand the company and how the issues fit into the overall corporate strategy and operations. What may seem like an isolated issue may have long-term, Big Picture consequences. Maybe you take a position in negotiation or litigation on one matter that makes the company vulnerable on other fronts or creates exposure that an outside lawyer wouldn’t think about—it’s not her job to think of that because she can’t know as much as about the business as we do. It’s the job of in-house counsel to worry about that.”
In-house lawyers also need to have flexibility. “The right philosophy for in-house lawyers is not to be the obstacle—the person who says no—but to be the person who problem solves to get to yes. That doesn’t mean that you can always get there. There are times when, unfortunately, the answer from legal is ‘no, you can’t do that’ or ‘no, you shouldn’t do that.’ But you’re going to be much more effective if your internal clients know you’re there to help them solve their problems.”
Deborah Ben-Canaan of global legal and executive recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa agrees that this mindset is critical no matter what industry the lawyer serves. “A successful in-house lawyer, especially a successful general counsel, must be a business advisor and a consigliore to the executive team,” she says. “Taking an organization’s business goals into account is of utmost importance. The more internal clients feel the general counsel and entire corporate legal department is aligned with their needs, the more they willingly go to the legal team for advice before making decisions, both big and small.” [Read Deb’s three-part series, “Defining Leadership.”]
A successful in-house lawyer, especially a successful general counsel, must be a business advisor and a consigliore to the executive team.
Because then-Red Sox President and CEO Lucchino is a lawyer himself, he looks to hire lawyers who can contribute across the entirety of the organization. “I have a respect for the versatility of lawyers,” Lucchino says in “The Boss & Counsel.” “It is true that there is an opportunity for lawyers to do more. And if your CEO is a lawyer, then he recognizes that. I throw Dave into other [non-legal] problems as much as I can.” As part of that conversation, Dave added that to get beyond being a narrow lawyer, “Above all, lawyers need to get comfortable taking risk. I think lawyers—a lot of us are risk-averse. That’s why we go to law school. But lawyers need to be comfortable taking smart, calculated risks at the right time.”
Transitioning from Government to In-House Counsel at a Privately Held Company
Government documents are publicly available under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or state equivalents. After his years in government, Dave had grown accustomed to avoiding email—even for information protected by attorney-client privilege. In some cases, government officials didn’t even have email. Many sensitive discussions took place orally rather than in writing. Moving in-house, “I had to get used to emailing things,” Dave jokes in “The Boss & Counsel.”
Of course one of the benefits of avoiding email is that Dave also grew accustomed to building personal relationships with his bosses. He explained in that discussion, “I developed a habit of almost always talking to my bosses in person. Aside from the fact that you get feedback, it can be [a] more effective” way to communicate.
Top legal recruiter Deborah Ben-Canaan tells me that it’s often difficult for attorneys to transition from a government role to an in-house role. The government lawyers most sought after by companies are typically those with a specialized, in-demand niche practice such as corporate investigations or compliance, or those at the highest levels of management within the government. It can be done, but sometimes an intermediary step is necessary—for example moving to a law firm to gain traditional practice experience before moving in-house. Additionally, the transition from government to in-house isn’t without its hiccups. “It’s a shift in mindset,” Deb says. “The goal of a corporation is to provide profit to its shareholders. Moreover, risks may be viewed differently and decisions may be made more quickly in business than in government.”
Melba Hughes, also a legal search consultant at Major Lindsey & Africa, notes: “Lawyers need to stretch themselves to get all they can from their opportunities and experiences.” Dave was open to new and different experiences, even though he didn’t know where they would lead. “Those experiences created a solid foundation—particularly of leadership skills—for the future,” she says. Deb and Melba are nationally recognized leaders in legal search, and they agree that attorneys moving in-house need to adjust their mindset and build business judgment in addition to building technical legal skills. Often, that adjustment comes on the job. Melba recommends that attorneys aspiring to the highest corporate levels make the switch into a corporate legal department as mid-level lawyers, when possible, to ease that change.
What In-House Counsel Looks for in Outside Counsel
In selecting and hiring outside counsel, Dave tells me FSG is usually looking for specific legal expertise. “We have a relatively large in-house department for a sports organization, so we handle a lot in-house. When we go outside, it’s for a reason—really good judgment and expertise in the type of matter we’re looking to handle. We understand there’s a cost for someone who is really, really good.”
Legal recruiter Dina F. Cappuccio explains how the market for outside counsel has changed in recent years. “When the economy tightened, companies looked to save on legal spend. Competition for business among law firms is fiercer than ever, as many companies are doing what the Red Sox are doing—handling more and more matters in-house, and sending less work to outside counsel.”
So how do you stand out as an outside counsel trying to generate business? Dina says, “Networking and relationship building are key. People need to know who you are, and you need to build trust.” Melba also recommends outside counsel develop relationships with in-house counsel, but to really demonstrate their value-add (which as Dave says, in-house counsel are willing to pay for) they have to understand the business model. They also need to understand the economic, regulatory, and competitive landscape the company is working within. (Notice that theme! It’s something I talk to clients about regularly, but it’s important they hear it not just from a legal career coach, but from in-house clients and legal search consultants as well.)
“Industry expertise and subject matter expertise are value-adds corporate clients seek when retaining outside counsel,” Melba says. “If you have expertise, then you can help business people and in-house counsel make strong, intelligent decisions.” Dina agrees. “After years of aggressive law firm merger activity, many firms have become multinational and can handle very specialized, sophisticated work. Developing an area of expertise—or attaching to a firm with the right platform—can be very helpful in going after specialized work valued by top sports organizations.”
Advice for Lawyers on Career Development and Breaking into the Sports Industry
Dave was one of the more than 150 attorneys I interviewed for the 2011 classic edition of “How to Get a Legal Job: A Guide for New Attorneys and Law School Students” and in Spring 2016, he’ll teach “Management and Leadership Skills for Lawyers” as a lecturer at Harvard Law School. But regardless of whether you’re a law student, junior lawyer, mid-level lawyer, or senior-level lawyer, Dave’s recommendation for attorneys wanting to get into the sports industry is the same: “There’s no magic piece of advice other than to just really develop your skills. Writing skills are always a premium, as are analytical, negotiating, and listening skills.”
Given the sheer volume of attorneys interested, employers are very selective. Legal and executive recruiter Deborah Ben-Canaan says those who are considering a move should be prepared to take a sizeable pay cut—compensation for lawyers in the sports industry is often lower than other industries, such as financial services or life sciences. Additionally, lawyers should have a variety of experiences covering union and traditional labor law, including disputes and litigation. Beyond technical legal skills, managerial and leadership skills are critical. “Top communication skills, emotional intelligence, political savvy, and gravitas are key to leading the legal teams of these prestigious organizations,” Deb says.
Start building your expertise, Dina Cappuccio says. “Join relevant associations and take any and all opportunities to network with them. Writing articles can be good marketing tools, and publishing can be as simple as posting on LinkedIn.”
And get started now, or your chances to land a top position in an elite sports institution, or land the team as a client, may start dwindling fast. Dina explains, “Outside counsel need to start planting the seeds very early in their careers—or even sooner, beginning in college and law school—since it takes much time and effort to start to build and nurture a network.”
Top Three Legal Career Development Takeaways
I’m fortunate to spend a great deal of time talking about best strategies for career development, professional development, and career transitions with executive coach and former executive recruiter Jared Redick, also quoted above. Jared is an expert career consultant for c-level executives and rising stars in Fortune 100 companies, including some of the world’s most desirable brands. We see a lot of overlap between what it takes to be a sought-after corporate leader and what it takes to be a sought-after attorney—particularly in-house counsel, since in the best organizations in-house lawyers are incorporated within the overall leadership structure.
Jared and I discussed our top three takeaways from Dave’s journey to the Red Sox.
1. There is No Substitute for Excellence.
Yes, Dave is smart and well educated. Those are clearly advantages that have helped doors open for him. “But being smart and well educated isn’t enough to rise to the top when everyone around you is also smart and well educated,” Jared points out. Dave’s also great at what he does—as a hands-on lawyer, as a legal strategist, as a business partner, as a leader, and as a team player. That excellence across the board, which in turn led to an exceptionally strong professional network built over decades, enabled him to succeed at every level.
2. Come Out of Your Failures Stronger than You Went In.
Even Dave hasn’t been immune to disappointment. His law firm collapsed, throwing him and everyone else suddenly out of work. He lost his state election. Dave turned those “failures” into additional career opportunities. Note that it’s far easier to do that when you’ve built a reputation for excellence and have a strong professional network before the professional crisis occurs. People bounce back quickly from adversity because they’ve laid the foundation in advance. “In other words,” Jared says, “there is a direct correlation between your ability to bounce back from adversity and the amount of work that you’ve put into developing your professional expertise and your network.”
3. Being in the Right Place at the Right Time Is Not an Accident.
As I said earlier, Dave is modest. Being in the right place at the right time when your dream job opens up is not merely good luck. It’s the culmination of years of building a widespread reputation for excellence and developing influential professional relationships. It’s about being the type of lawyer (and person) who others want to stake their own reputations on and whose success others want to be a part of. “That’s why he has a such a powerful network that brings him opportunities and is willing to stake their own reputations on him,” Jared says.
There is a direct correlation between your ability to bounce back from adversity and the amount of work that you’ve put into developing your professional expertise and your network.
And it’s about building a profession presence so that employers and recruiters can find you, particularly for the needle-in-a-haystack positions mentioned earlier. Jared says, “LinkedIn has become a great place for passive candidates who are ‘happy where they are’ but open to those needle-in-a-haystack opportunities to carefully make their stories visible to search firms. It’s a bit of an art, but it’s a great new development in career development.”
Bonus: No One Succeeds Alone.
Underlying this entire article, and particularly these career development tips, is the concept of networking. Many attorneys dislike the concept of networking. They see it as opportunistic or salesy. But that’s not what networking is, and that’s not why professional and personal networking matters.
Networking isn’t about cynically cultivating relationships that can open doors. Networking is about genuine connection with people who share your values and recognize each other’s worth, and who are willing to work together to help each other succeed.
Networking isn’t about waiting until you need a job, and then frantically contacting every person you used to know to ask for help. Networking is about building of trust relationships over time, and cultivating those relationships so that you are looking out for opportunities for each other.
No matter how smart, well educated, and determined you are, you cannot advance far alone. All attorneys need friends and mentors to reach their own legal dream jobs.
Let’s be honest. There are only a handful of jobs like Dave Friedman’s. And we can’t all be president of Harvard Law Review, U.S. Supreme Court law clerks, and in-house counsel at the Red Sox. We can’t all be purple squirrels.
However, a big part of what makes Dave’s job a legal dream job is that he loves it. Ultimately your task isn’t to get Dave’s dream job. Your task is to find your own dream job—a job you can love, a job that’s best for you. Fortunately, law jobs, JD-preferred jobs, and law-related jobs come in so many different varieties and environments, and require different skill sets.
Remember: “There’s no one path to finding a job you love,” legal search consultant Melba Hughes says. “What’s important is that you understand yourself, that you know what you love, what excites you, and what you’re willing to do to get there. Then develop your skill set to accomplish it.”