4 tips to advance your legal career this year

Written by: Rachael Gordon
Published on: 14 Jan 2021

Advance career

Whether you want to progress in a job you love or you’re considering a completely different path, it can often be difficult to take charge of your own career progression. It’s very unlikely that you can simply leave university, secure a training contract and be guided onto a partnership track by supervisors – nowadays, career progression is firmly in the hands of individuals.

If 2021 is the year you want to climb the corporate ladder or simply take on more exciting and interesting projects, we’ve compiled the best ways to advance your legal career.

Talk to your manager

There may be many more opportunities for advancement within your firm than you realise, say Forbes. Ultimately your career progression is your own responsibility but by making your intentions clear and discussing what your goals are, your manager will have you in mind when opportunities arise in the future. “No matter how motivated you are to move forward in your career, if you don’t make it obvious to your employer, your career goals might never be fulfilled”, warns recruitment agency Reed.

Sit down with your manager and outline your career goals for the next 6 months, year, and 3 years. Try to identify opportunities within the organisation that reflect your goals, and most importantly, write it all down! Even better if this aligns with your organisational development plan.

Keep an eye out for opportunities

Key to career advancement within the law is taking risks – pitching new ideas or projects in areas you’re interested in will work in your favour. “You could discuss taking on more complex cases, picking up/ gaining exposure in other areas of law, or assisting them with some management responsibilities. This could give you the option to develop your skillset, while also working in an environment in which you are comfortable. This way will also give you access to experienced peers who may be able to assist with anything you may not fully understand”, claims Laura Hayward, senior manager at Sellick Partnership.

Keep an eye out for secondments or other job opportunities within your firm which may help you broaden your skillset. Khatidja Janmohamed, Corporate law programme manager at Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO London), found out her passion was recruitment whilst a trainee at Freshfields: “I was determined to prove I was serious about my first move and volunteered for a range of graduate recruitment projects. This enabled me to show a good understanding of the role I was applying for.”

Build a career plan

Just like a regular car service, professionals need to MOT their career every six months. Ask yourself:

  • How is my career going?
  • What do I need to do to stay on track?
  • Where do I need to be?
  • Is this career plan still relevant to me?

Career planning might seem like an overwhelming task, but it doesn’t need to be. Plans can change (never more true than in the last year!), things evolve, opportunities present themselves – the purpose of the plan is to allow you to map out where you want to be and to make sure you are moving in the right direction. Read our article by Jason Connolly, CEO of JMC Legal, to find out more about building your career plan.

Grow your network

Networking is essential in helping you build connections and develop relationships although obviously more difficult to do during the pandemic. It’s especially important for a career in law as it can lead to new opportunities. The Law Society guidance on how to network provides specific examples including what to say, setting goals for your networking, and where to meet people to expand your network.

Clayton Legal stress the importance of preparing your pitch before attending any networking events: “How will you introduce and describe yourself to people in an engaging yet concise way? The best way to do this effectively is to get feedback from your network, ask them to listen to your pitch and offer constructive criticism if required.”

For the foreseeable future, it’s likely that networking will take place online. LinkedIn saw an increase of 55% in conversations among connections in 2020 as networking, both professionally and informally, went digital. Their tips for networking include reconnecting with contacts you may have lost touch with, posting and sharing stories and anecdotes from your working life to spark conversations, and actually asking your network for help – read more here.

If you need any more support or career advice, check out our resources: