In 2018, John Kennedy and Sharon Wilcoxen met when they each attended the 2018 WSBA Practice Primer Series on Business Law. One year after that serendipitous meeting, they are now in the process of opening their own estate planning and business law firm: Kennedy Wilcoxen PLLC.
At the time, Kennedy was working at a law firm in Seattle when he decided to register for the WSBA Practice Primer: Business Law CLE Series to expand his practice area. At the same time, Wilcoxen was planning to start her own law firm when the new Practice Primer was announced. She had attended the inaugural Practice Primer on estate planning in 2017 and went again the following year for the business law primer as well, to identify avoidable mistakes for first-time solo practitioners in these fields.
WSBA Practice Primers encompass weekly sessions over the course of three months, for up to 21 CLE credits. The sessions take a substantive area of law and develop a series of learning tracks that build upon one another, led by a faculty of experienced attorneys representing solo, medium, and large law practices.
In addition to the networking opportunity it turned out to be for Kennedy and Wilcoxen, the Primer Series provided a host of information for their legal and practice management education. Here are their top five tips and takeaways.
5. If Possible, Sign Up for the Entire Three-Part Series
Registering for the entire series over three months can allow you to connect with dozens of legal professionals and provide resources and knowledge to either expand your practice area, refresh your knowledge, or make big career decisions.
4. Attend In-Person
If possible, forego the webcast version and come in the flesh. Arrive a little early, mingle during breaks, participate with questions in class, stay late to chat with faculty, and arrange to meet up with your colleagues.
Practice networking with faculty, staff, and classmates to build professional relationships. Identify and develop your authentic style for relating to your potential clients, business associates, community members, and colleagues.
3. Engage With Faculty and Find a Mentor
The faculty consist of successful attorneys whom are willing to share their legal and local market experience with you. They generously engage to assist you by volunteering time and offering feedback on your specific situation—after all, they have likely already encountered problem areas you may experience in your career. Allow them to share their experiences and to provide critiques that will help you with any obvious difficulties in your current plans.
Observe the faculty’s strengths and determine if you could benefit from strengthening specific skills in the practice of law. Seek out a mentor who can advise you on how to improve upon your existing skills. You can establish a mentorship relationship with faculty, take the opportunity to attend WSBA’s MentorLink Mixers, or seek out attorneys in your community.
2. Discover Your Work Life Balance and Where You Fit in the Local Legal Community
Check your awareness of business and personal lifestyle options to ensure they are realistic. Observe and discuss differences in the faculty and your peers’ career priorities based on practice areas and the size of their law firms.
Take every opportunity to discuss your current or ideal practice areas with various faculty and colleagues, both within the Primer CLE Series, mentor programs, and the greater legal community. This will increase your confidence in what you bring to your law practice and your ability to succeed.
1. Make Friends—or a New Business Partner
The structure of the business law Practice Primer Series allowed us to get to know each other through observing our weekly class interactions and having coffee afterward to discuss our new practice plans over three months. Ultimately, we decided to work together and open a new estate planning and business law firm: Kennedy Wilcoxen PLLC, which will open with offices in Bellevue and Seattle on April 15.