Legal Career Advice: Don’t Get Blindsided by Office Politics


Office politics are an issue throughout the business world. And the legal profession is not immune. While some legal professionals believe it’s necessary to play the game, doing so could damage your reputation and distract you from your work. Four in 10 (40 percent) of employees polled by OfficeTeam said they occasionally participate in office politics.

The smartest legal career advice is to be aware of office politics but make sure you aren’t participating. Here are three tips to help:

1. Steer clear of other people’s power struggles. 

Don’t ignore political dynamics at work to such a degree that you could be blindsided if they were to affect you. Still, never get involved in these skirmishes. For example, if two attorneys in your firm are constantly at odds, don’t take sides, even if you feel you could. If you’re required to work with competing attorneys, do everything you can to remain objective and focus on the job at hand.

2. Highlight your successes without boasting.

There’s a big difference between manipulative one-upmanship and simply making key leaders aware of your successes. Although legal professionals often put countless hours into their work, many forget to share their contributions with the legal office management team. In Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Horn Without Blowing It, author Peggy Klaus offers some solid legal career advice about how to showcase your successes without swagger. She writes, “Weave your accomplishments into brief narratives that communicate passion, energy and delight.” For example, if one of the firm’s partners asks you how a case is coming along, use the opportunity to share a few of your recent accomplishments.

3. Avoid gossiping; embrace relationship-building.

According to How To Navigate Office Politics from Robert Half, gossip is the most common form of office politics. But avoiding office gossip doesn’t mean you should dismiss all social events as fertile ground for office politics. As you walk the line between the two, here’s what to keep in mind: To succeed in the legal profession, it’s critical to build relationships and network with other legal professionals. But if colleagues start gossiping about coworkers during a casual work outing, don’t participate. You will not only help your own career but also set a good example for your coworkers.

There’s no getting around it: Office politics exist in most organizations. Although cynics will tell you, “Nice guys finish last,” it is possible to honorably climb the ladder without stepping on anyone along the way.

 Share your own legal career advice for avoiding office politics in the comments.