How to Get Noticed -- and Promoted -- in Your Legal Career

Whether you’re working in a legal job at a private law firm or in-house at a company, getting recognition from leaders in the organization can be a challenge. Even if you always contribute top-notch work, senior colleagues may not readily distinguish you from other up-and-coming associates who also deliver quality work product.

Here are some action steps you can take to get noticed and earn the recognition you need to advance in your legal career.

Tips to Get Noticed in Your Legal Career

1. Be visible. Recognize that there are many ways to raise your profile within the organization in addition to being diligent at your work. Consider taking part in office events, such as team-building activities, holiday parties, birthday celebrations, nonprofit or pro bono work, and other official mix-and-mingle opportunities that may arise. These are the times you can get to know co-workers and partners in a more relaxed setting and engage in conversations with colleagues you don't see on a daily basis.  

2. Refine interpersonal skills. Soft skills are an integral part of being a successful attorney, essential to forging relationships with professionals in your office and within the legal community. Strengthen communication skills by interacting with a wide range of people and personalities. From clients to co-workers to co-counsel -- you need to be able to work with them all effectively. Strong communication skills are not just for arguing cases or writing memos but also for conveying important information and business solutions to clients. You should also be adept at dealing with ambiguity and complexity.

3. Do more than your job description. Volunteer for projects that are important to the organization but others may see as too mundane or uninteresting to tackle. Not only will you demonstrate you're dependable, but you'll show your co-workers and superiors that you're willing to go above and beyond for the organization. Step up for the projects that will elevate your status in the firm or office.

On the other hand, be sure to maintain balance -- don’t overdo it. If you pile too much on your plate, you risk producing inferior results. If someone asks you to take on a project and you truly don't have time, politely decline. Your co-workers will appreciate an honest answer as opposed to a promise that you may be unable to fulfill.

4. Be client-focused. If you're an attorney at a law firm, building strong relationships with your clients and potential clients can help you bring more business into the practice. Demonstrating your rainmaking skills is one of the best ways to get noticed. Improving client service levels involves maintaining an active dialogue with clients. Consider inviting some of your best clients to lunch to discuss their legal needs, where they feel your firm is doing well, where you can do better, and how you can improve the quality of the services you deliver and reduce the client's costs. 

5. Develop your business skills. A law firm is a business. And it needs attorneys who can provide legal advice that keeps clients’ business goals in mind. Show partners and other senior colleagues you clearly recognize corporate clients’ growing demand for more value for their spending, more predictability, better communication, transparency in billing, and improved efficiency. Demonstrate that you understand your firm must leave behind or modify some long-established traditions in order to remain competitive and operate cost-effectively. And embrace changes that may be introduced -- for example, alternative billing arrangements, modification of compensation structures, new approaches to client relationship management, and more flexible staffing strategies.

6. Find a mentor. Seek out a mentor in your office. Connecting with a seasoned colleague who can provide you with career guidance will not only demonstrate your sincere interest in professional development but can also lead to important introductions. Many firms have coaching and mentoring programs in which associates are matched with mentors to guide them -- especially through their early years. You may benefit from a partner coach who can help you with your work and direct you in your career plans.

Use these tips to build your profile in your office and in the legal community. By providing superior legal work and improving your visibility, senior colleagues and partners will be far more likely to take note of your contributions.