Making career advancements as a lawyer

In our fast-paced society, it's easy to get caught up in our routines — especially for lawyers. It can be difficult to step back and look at how we're doing, but it's important for our personal growth that we take time to reflect on how we feel about ourselves and our jobs.

If you feel stuck in your job after reflecting, it may be time for a change. Career advancement can help you feel more motivated and engaged with your work. Upon consideration, you may want to move up the legal ladder, switch firms, or change practice areas. When considering a career change, you'll need to understand how to navigate unfamiliar legal ground to perform your best work.

Take a look below to see when you should explore opportunities for advancement and how to go about making this change.

When to advance your career

There are some situations that call for bigger change. Signals that suggest it's time for a career advancement include:

  • You're craving a challenge. You may have spent your entire career in business law. You've become an expert in the field, but it may be time to step out of your comfort zone and continue to grow in a different area.
  • Your work isn't exciting anymore. Your work feels repetitive, doing the same thing day in and day out. Advancing your career and doing something new can help break that cycle.
  • You're not able to grow. Some companies, firms, and fields are better about providing growth opportunities than others. If advancing your career is a goal of yours, it might be time to look for something different compared to your current position.

If you're in any of these situations, it's time for a change. Advancing your career can help you achieve your goals and make your job something you look forward to.

How to advance your legal career

Step 1: Define what advancement means to you

Advancement is commonly seen as getting a promotion. While this is true, advancement can also be taking opportunities that relate to your personal goals. Someone might find that a lateral move, like switching from a mid-level associate at a corporate firm to a boutique firm, might make them happier than moving up the ladder. Think about what advancement means to you and create a goal based on that.

Step 2: Research your new legal career path

Once you know what your next move is, use your network to conduct informational interviews. Interviews can tell you how to go about achieving a new position, especially if your desired role is in a new practice area or a leadership position. From the informational interviews, understand what skills you will need to grow. Especially as you move into more formal leadership roles, it's important to develop:

Project management skills – In some jobs, you may have to take the lead on projects. In others, you may have to wear multiple hats and get things done yourself. Either way, according to Indeed, project management includes organization, time management, and team management. Build this skill by focusing on prioritizing tasks, creating deadlines, and delegating responsibilities.

Business knowledge – Lawyers need to treat the firm as a business, especially when moving up the legal ladder. This knowledge includes how your firm's processes, finances, marketing, and revenue are influenced by practicing law. Build your business acumen by understanding these areas of your firm, along with legal industry trends. Then, look for ways you could improve the firm. For example, introducing a new streamlined workflow could make your firm more efficient and save costs.

After defining which skills you want to improve on, be open with your boss. Ask what you can take on to build those skills and make sure you're suited for your desired role.

Step 3: Create goals, a course of action, and a timeline

Once you've outlined all the skills you need to build, it's time to work on them. Creating tangible goals will help you stay motivated when working on these areas. Make sure you have specific steps on how you will reach them, along with a timeline for having those steps done.

For example, you may have the goal of building your project management skills. Leading a six-week project can help you achieve this. Take this a step further by determining what the goal of the project is, who else needs to be involved, and what responsibilities everyone will have to achieve the goal.

It may be time for a career advancement opportunity. When in this situation, it's important to understand what advancement means to you, research your new path, and create specific goals that will help you get to your desired role. If you need more help, go more in-depth by reading our white paper that describes how to navigate an unfamiliar position.

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