How to move up in law

What can you do to differentiate yourself from your colleagues in 2020 so you can advance in your career? How can you more effectively demonstrate the leadership capabilities that law department and law firm management are looking for and the value you bring to the organisation? To help you climb that corporate ladder, here are 14 top tips for how to move up in law. 

Accelerate your career in law with these 14 tips!

1) Keep doing your work to the highest quality

The foundation for winning promotions and advancing in your career is to always do good work, and hit your numbers. If you’re not accomplishing what your managers are asking you to do to the fullest, then this needs to be your top priority. Excel and shine at the work that you’ve been hired to do first and only then take on anything extra. Your partners will be looking at the chargeable time league tables, and you need to show that you are hitting your billable targets.

2) If you’re struggling, ask for help

Strangely, one of the best ways to move up the ranks in law, and any profession for that matter, is to ask for help. Too many lawyers try to mask poor performance by spending time on non-core work when the best lawyers improve their execution of regular assigned projects. You can only improve if you ask for help. No one has all the answers so this won’t reflect badly on you, it will actually show that you want to learn and grow within the firm. 

3) Look for opportunities to take on extracurricular work

As we said previously, make sure you are doing exceptional work first before taking on anything extra! If you are sure that new work won’t affect the quality of your assigned projects, then look for additional responsibilities where you can earn positive recognition from senior leaders within the firm. Whether that’s volunteering to spearhead an office-sponsored community event, leading a pilot project to test out new software, or managing a team-building office activity, if it’s something that will contribute to the growth and profits of the firm, your name will be associated with value.

4) Develop your networking skills

When thinking about how to move up in law, an extensive network of contacts can help massively! Making contacts as early on as possible means that you have multiple people to turn to for advice, ideas or guidance on business-related issues. It also means that you are likely to be at an advantage when you want to move firms as there are many hidden positions you may be the first to hear about. As they say, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

5) Gain expertise in a variety of areas

One of the best ways to advance your law career this year is to gain experience in as many different areas as possible. If you do so, you will open so many doors for your long-term career prospects! Look at different areas in the firm, are there any projects in different departments that you can get involved with and learn from? Ideally you need to be looking at projects which will expand your ability in business development, commercial acumen and people leadership.

6) Hone your soft skills

Technical competence is not enough to get you ahead in your career; to progress through the ranks, you need to hone and develop your soft skills. By soft skills, we are talking about any interpersonal skills that allow you to build and sustain effective relationships inside and outside the law office environment. These are primarily communication, teamwork and collaboration, resourcefulness, flexibility, confidence, diplomacy, adaptability, self-initiative, time management, and conflict resolution. By demonstrating solid interpersonal expertise along with requisite legal knowledge and skills, legal professionals can readily distinguish themselves from their colleagues.

7) Find a mentor

Having someone who you can turn to when your job is at a critical juncture can provide tremendous benefits, it doesn’t just have to be one person though. You could have a couple of people who are older and more experienced than you who have different strengths. Perhaps you need a mentor to help you with technical matters but another to offer advice and guidance on your career progression?

8) Keep up with the latest technology

Learning how to move up in law doesn’t end with graduating law school. In fact, most of the learning happens after! To advance up the career ladder, you need to remain updated on new technology developments that are relevant to your area of work, your industry, and also your client’s industry. Machine learning, e-disclosure and AI are already starting to change how law is being done. How will it impact your area of the law? This, together with acquiring new skills and enhancing your existing expertise, will ensure you remain highly competitive.

9) Question your profession’s orthodoxies

If you want to know how to move up in law, sometimes not following the way things are usually done is the key. If you see any limitations to legal procedures or the way certain things are done, question them. Just highlighting issues are of value but if you also bring your own solution to the table, if it’s successful, you can be certain that you will be rewarded. 

10) Learn to think (and act) like an entrepreneur

Every lawyer is in business for themselves, so if you can learn to think and act like an entrepreneur, you can greatly accelerate your career progression. The sooner you take responsibility for your own skills, growth, integrity, reputation, brand, service, and business development, the sooner you can start winning your own clients and building that all-important book of business.

11) Take control of your own career 

To move up in law, first know what you want and then manage your career to get there! Do not attempt to excel in a position you dislike, instead find a career and job position that fits your personality, skills, and passion. This makes advocating yourself a lot easier as does seeking advice and guidance from the more experienced.

12) Ask for a promotion (at the right time)

Not many lawyers think of asking for a promotion when they think about how to move up in law, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get. If, and only if, you have a great reputation, you do high-quality work, you have a strong brand, positive attitude, and your a team player and a role model employee should you ask for a promotion! Just be prepared to give examples of your great work AND how it has directly contributed to the growth of the firm.

13) Learn about how the firm works

A big part of career progression comes down to understanding how your law firm generates profits (as well as firm politics). If you understand this, you can learn to master one or two key areas to demonstrate to your firm’s senior partners that you want to and can help the firm to grow and thrive. 

14) Stop limiting your own career progression

The limits on the value we can deliver are often self-imposed so learn to think differently in 2020. Open your mind and aim to learn as much as you can about your law firm, the industry, the skills you need to develop, and your specific clients’ needs. When you do this, you can’t help but provide value where it’s needed the most!

How to move up in law?  

Remember that your job success isn’t determined by your technical knowledge alone! To advance in law and along that all-important partnership track, start managing your career starting with these top 14 tips to learn, develop, and grow in 2020. 

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