Smart Strategies to Achieve Your Legal Career New Year’s Resolutions

Keep Your Career New Year's Resolutions

The start of a new year is an ideal time to take stock of your legal career -- to not only identify what you’ve accomplished but to reassess your long-term objectives and make plans for what you hope to attain in the future.

A new survey from Robert Half Legal suggests that many lawyers,  recognizing the dynamic nature of the legal profession, are focused on professional development in the coming year. One in four lawyers (26 percent) interviewed said their priority resolution for 2015 is to learn a new skill. Sixteen percent of the lawyers surveyed said that earning a raise or bonus is a key objective for next year. Other career resolutions that ranked high on the list include: expanding their practice or firm (11 percent); retiring or deciding if it’s time to retire (7 percent); and improving their work-life balance (4 percent).

As you develop your legal career plans for the coming year, it's important to avoid creating goals that are vague or unrealistic, or so ambitious that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Instead, remember to establish clearly defined and measurable objectives -- and then break each down into a series of smaller, manageable -- and achievable -- steps.

Here are some common career-related resolutions, along with suggestions for enhancing your chances of making them a reality in 2015:

  • “I want to expand my professional capabilities.” In today’s competitive legal workplace, legal professionals recognize that pursuing new skills helps keep their careers on a forward trajectory. To start, identify areas aligned with your career objectives where you can enhance your skills and broaden your knowledge. Then create a step-by-step plan – and timetable -- to address each targeted skill or experience area on your list during the year. Research CLE courses, seminars as well as workplace opportunities that are available. Then commit to what you will do each week, month or quarter to achieve the steps in your plan. And as you attain each of your professional development milestones, update your resume to reflect your accomplishments.

As you develop your legal career plans for the coming year, it's important to avoid creating goals that are vague or unrealistic, or so ambitious that it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

  • “I want to find a new job.” Take time to refresh your legal resume so it reflects your most recent achievements and any updates in your work experience. Then, focus on other aspects of your job search – for example, research new job opportunities, schedule meetings with business contacts, build your LinkedIn profile. Reassess your job search goals monthly to stay on track to achieve your objective.

  • “I want to advance my career.” Meet with your manager to discuss your career interests and identify areas for improvement. Additionally, look for opportunities to take on projects beyond your job description that will enable you to raise your profile within the office and enhance your value to your employer. Seek input from network contacts, recruiters and colleagues who may be able to provide guidance to help you take your career to the next level.

  • “I want a raise.” If you don't already keep an inventory of your significant achievements, develop one and keep it updated. For example: Did you implement a new process that’s saving the organization time or money? Did you secure new clients or assume new or expanded duties? Have you gained new expertise or enhanced your skills through professional development courses? Also, keep current on compensation levels for positions and experience similar to yours through industry resources, such as the Robert Half Legal Salary Guide, which includes salary ranges for more than 100 legal positions. Then set up a meeting with your manager to discuss your value to the organization. Be prepared to present a business case for the salary increase you desire, based on your notable achievements and contributions to the organization. If you’re advised that no salary increases can be given until the next annual budget is approved, discuss with your supervisor any actions you might take that would help strengthen your chances for a salary increase when budget and salary decisions are scheduled in the future.  

We recognize that while many people have the best of intentions at the start of the year, by February, those self-promises often take a backseat to the press of other personal or work-related commitments. Don’t let that happen to you – instead, tackle your action plans, one step at a time, and remain focused on your career goals throughout the year.