4 Ways Lawyers Can Make the Most of Career Development Programs

Career development programs for attorneys

How can you go beyond being a good attorney to become an outstanding one? One of the best ways is through legal career development programs. Fortunately, many firms offer these education initiatives for their associates. So opportunities are available at law firms of all sizes—from “big law” to boutique firms.

Let’s examine four ways you can maximize the benefits of career development programs offered by your employer:

1. Make the most of mentorships.

If your firm partners junior associates with experienced mentors, be sure to take full advantage of this relationship. On the one hand, it’s important to listen and appreciate the value of your mentor’s expertise. But don’t be afraid of raising questions or offering suggestions too. Your mentor may also introduce you to his or her colleagues, giving you another chance to foster professional relationships. Developing a solid network helps you gain more career opportunities in the future, while making you more valuable to your firm. 

2. Ask for challenges.

Law offices often assign employees new tasks based on how long they’ve practiced. However, there’s no rule saying you have to wait for learning opportunities as part of formal career development programs. If you want to gain experience in a particular practice area or procedure, talk to your supervisor about the steps you can take. He or she is likely to be impressed by your drive.

3. Get involved.

Law firms want associates to have a wide range of experience and connections. That’s why some encourage you to develop your career by joining the boards of professional groups—or by being active in your local or state bar association. If you take the time to participate in these organizations, you’re likely to see a return on that investment. You can hone your leadership, networking and communication skills—and become more familiar with the customs of your trade. Your membership in the legal community also reflects positively on your firm.

4. Make your preferences known.

What if you want to develop expertise in civil litigation, but your firm’s career development program is aiming you toward the commercial end of the spectrum? In that kind of situation, it’s important to take your concerns to your mentor or supervisor. But make sure you listen to their reasons for steering you in a specific direction. Their experience may give them a better vantage point for evaluating where your talents can be used most effectively.

Career development programs are crucial, but your firm can spend only so much time training and mentoring you. So to stand out to present and future employers, take ownership of your professional development.

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