Don't Stall Your Legal Career: Avoid Making These Five Major Mistakes

Whether you've been working in the legal profession for six months or 16 years, you're probably always searching for career advice and opportunities to get ahead. Unfortunately, many lawyers, paralegals and other law professionals inadvertently make missteps along the way that end up stunting the legal careers they've worked so hard to build.

Steer clear of these five mistakes that can stall your career:

Mistake No. 1: Missing deadlines 

It’s no secret that the legal profession is a deadline-driven world. Whether you’re a lawyer, a paralegal, legal secretary or other legal professional, people are constantly counting on you to deliver superior work results in a timely manner. One missed deadline can cause an entire case or project to fall apart. That’s why it’s crucial to maintain a meticulous calendar and stay on top of deadlines for each case, project or transaction. Avoid causing irreparable damage to your professional image. Always complete and turn in assignments on time or before they’re due.

Mistake No. 2: Not asking for challenging assignments

Easy assignments are, well … easy. Easy to accept, easy to complete and easily forgotten. If you want to stand out and truly impress your boss, ask for the most challenging cases or assignments and tackle them head on. Of course, with a tough assignment there is always the danger of making a blunder, but no one has ever climbed the corporate ladder without taking risks. While it may be tempting to take on the simplest assignments, you’ll never prove your capabilities to your boss or yourself if you always settle for the relatively effortless projects.

Mistake No. 3: Not continuing to educate yourself

Albert Einstein said, “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” Whether you’re a lawyer, a law librarian, a paralegal or a case clerk, you should constantly search for opportunities to grow and expand your experience and skill set. After all, one of the fastest ways to become obsolete in any profession is to stop learning.

If you want to fuel and advance your career, pursue an advanced degree or professional certification, participate in Continuing Legal Education (CLE) classes, attend seminars and conferences, and read trade journals, blogs and other industry-related writings. When you make the effort to continually educate yourself, not only will you grow intellectually and stay on top of the latest developments in the legal profession, but you’ll also help put your career on the fast track.

Mistake No. 4: Refusing to stay on the cutting edge of technology

According to Robert Half Legal’s annual Future Law Office report, being able to serve clients effectively by using technology is an essential skill for success in the legal profession. If you refuse to accept the growing use of technology in the legal profession, you’ll simply get left behind.

As state-of-the-art technological advancements continue to revolutionize the industry, legal processes are becoming more automated than ever before, from e-billing and electronic case management to e-filing and eDiscovery tools. Stay on top of the latest legal technologies and embrace these advances wholeheartedly.

Mistake No. 5: Not having a mentor

One of the most effective ways to advance your career is to spend time with a seasoned legal professional who has already climbed his or her way to the top. This is why many legal professionals seek out a mentor to help guide their legal careers. The right mentor can offer invaluable career advice, insider knowledge and priceless opportunities for professional networking.

If you steer clear of these five major roadblocks, you’ll stand a much better chance of advancing yourself and your legal career.  

What other common mistakes or roadblocks could impede legal careers? Share your ideas and career advice below.