Posted by Lisa Hamilton on Thursday, May 22, 2014 - 00:00
If you're like me, you've probably been juggling numerous roles at your organization for a while now and there never seems to be enough time left in the day to complete all of your management responsibilities, let alone stay on top of your legal career goals. The trick to staying on top of everything isn’t finding time, however. It’s making time. Here are five tips legal professionals can use to get ahead in their legal careers:
Five Tips to Advance Your Legal Career
1. Look to the future. Achieving your legal career goals starts with identifying and defining what you want. Are you after a promotion or looking to acquire new skills? A certificate or another degree? Are you interested in broadening your practice area expertise, or transitioning from a law firm to a corporate counsel position? Take a few hours to consider what your next steps might be. Where do you see yourself professionally in five to 10 years? Setting your sights high and picturing yourself in your ultimate legal job is the first step to getting there.
Sports psychologists have athletes visualize landing the ball precisely where they want it to go. This visualization also works in legal careers. In short, if you don’t know where you want to end up professionally, you can’t chart a path to get there.
2. Choose a mentor. When trying to get somewhere you haven’t been before, you need good directions. Consider asking a seasoned colleague you admire to be your legal career mentor. He or she can provide a roadmap and talk you through strategic decisions. If you need help finding a mentor, check whether your firm offers formal programs that match up-and-coming employees with experienced professionals.
3. Master law office technology. According to Robert Half Legal’s annual Future Law Office report, the “ability to leverage technology to better serve clients [is just one] of the skills legal professionals will need to succeed in the future law office.” Knowing relevant software, apps and online tools can boost your professional qualifications and lead to greater success in your legal career. Another advantage to keeping pace with technology is that it helps you find new tools to work more productively, which can help you make more room for case management and other responsibilities.
4. Ask for help. If you’re truly overwhelmed by your workload and don’t have enough time for case management or other important tasks, speak to your supervisor about additional support. Perhaps the firm could hire another paralegal or legal assistant so you can delegate more legal assignments. If your manager isn’t prepared to hire a full-time employee, suggest bringing in a temporary legal assistant, contract attorney or another legal professional on a project basis to help address rising caseloads.
5. See and be seen. Cultivate relationships with colleagues and supervisors, and get out from behind your desk on a regular basis. After all, getting ahead in your legal career isn’t just about what you know, but whom you know. Networking at industry events, growing your connections via social media communities and joining professional associations can help you open doors and make valuable connections.
Despite the long hours and unpredictable schedules that can go hand-in-hand with legal careers, it’s worth making the time to focus on your short- and long-term professional goals. Dedicating just an hour or two a week to career management can help improve your legal job satisfaction and create a better sense of balance, giving you the confidence that you’re moving in the right direction.