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Career Advice for Millennial Lawyers From Vince Lombardi

By William Vogeler, Esq. on January 13, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

As the Super Bowl approaches, it is fitting to review a few lessons from Vince Lombardi, the greatest coach in NFL history.

After his team lost the title one year, he took his players back to training camp to teach them the fundamentals. He held up a pigskin and said: "Gentlemen, this is a football."

Lombardi, who won five NFL championships in seven years, taught players how to win on the field and his teachings have inspired people in all walks of life. Applied to law students and new lawyers trying to hone their skills in the workplace, here are some Lombardi quotes concerning consider:

"Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing."

Perhaps Lombardi's most famous quote, this gem is about being competitive. To be relevant in the job market, aspiring lawyers must compete with all their skills. This means more than having a prestigious law degree or graduating with honors.

Companies are beginning to see higher education as an inadequate and expensive option for some career paths, according to a Forbes survey of 100 top human resource managers. Attributes such as curiosity and commitment, not college, will be the most important job skills in 2017.

"Success demands singleness of purpose"

"Focus is the new IQ," says Georgetown professor Cal Newport in his book Deep Work. Technology has increased automation and decreased our focus, creating a high demand for workers capable of concentrating.

Most people have lost the ability to go deep, he says, spending their days in a blur of e-mail, notifications and text messages on multiple devices. Employers value workers who can focus on their jobs more than those who can multi-task between their jobs and social media.

"It's not whether you get knocked down. It's whether you get up."

Law firms, especially litigation firms, want attorneys who have tough skins because nobody wins every motion or trial. It is the ability to get back in the game that counts.

In a tough job market, this attribute is key to success. If at first you don't succeed, call the firm that turned you down the first time. Even if you don't get that job, you might get a referral.

"The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary."

Finding a job is a job. Likewise, getting a promotion is a job. Effort and initiative are rungs on the ladder of success.

Lindsey Dole, a vice president at Updater, says that newer employees often work in assistant roles but they can work harder by pursuing side projects. Even if the project is small, it shows "you can own initiatives from beginning to end," she says in Forbes.

"The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual."

Leading his teams to winning seasons every year was the crowning achievement of Lombardi's 15-year career in the NFL. He said the running a football team was like running any organization.

There is "I" in a legal team either.

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