Tips to Develop Your Legal Career
Whether you’re happily employed and ready to climb the ladder, or just hanging in there while you’re looking for something better, it is important for you to remember that to grow as an attorney, you must advocate for yourself and your own professional development.
It is astonishing how incredible of an advocate you can be for someone else’s needs—but remember you need to do the same for yourself as well.
Fresh graduates often find this adjustment more challenging. Even though they are now working as an attorney, it’s not the employer’s job to push them in their career. It’s not their mentor’s job, or their supervisor, or partner.
To help get you started:
1. Learn to manage your self critic.
You’ve been trained to spot issues and identify flaws in reasoning—and you automatically apply this skill to evaluate your abilities and the consequences your mistakes. You can come up with a host of reasons for why you are not ready, will fail, and your ideas are bad. BUT: you have to manage it.
If you don’t believe in your own competence and value, you will not be able to effectively advocate for your advancement. You won’t be able to tell if it’s a partner or firm holding you back because you will be personally blocking your own progress.
So the first step you have to take will be to acknowledge your limitations, but manage the self-critic, and transform the information into an actionable step to start progressing.
2. Identify and take steps that move the needle forward.
Complete the simple exercise of identifying where you want to be in 5 years. What kind of lawyer do you want to be? What kind of matters will you be working on? What kind of clients are you serving?
Then identify three steps you can take to advance your professional development. These can be as small as joining an organization outside of your job, or as big as reaching out to a partner from a different practice group. Identify the steps—projects, activities, initiatives, targets, etc.—that you can breakdown into bite-size pieces.
You need to know what you have to do to make things happen. If you’re waiting for someone else to hand you the opportunity out of the blue, you are only doing yourself a disservice. This might actually require you to prepare for the ask and to present yourself as the best candidate for an opportunity you want.
And for our friends that are thinking about leaving the practice—just know that these tips apply outside of the legal profession as well.