WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU'RE EXPECTING TO MAKE PARTNER
Things are moving along. You go to work every day. You sit at your desk and pound out motions (or contracts), do some research, eat at your desk, more research, go home, more research, go to bed, repeat. It’s working for you now, but what about a year from now? What about 10 years from now? Do you see yourself at the same firm? A different firm? No firm?
As comfortable (or at least familiar) as your current position is, are you doing what you want to do? Although things have been tough in the California legal market, we’re on the edge of an increase in hiring. The California market will undoubtedly see some associate and partner movement in the next 12-18 months; so now is the time to think about your career path and really create your career. Don’t just let things come to you – put yourself in a position to grow your career over the next one to two years. With a little thought and planning, you could be at your dream job (whatever that may be) sooner than you think.
Creating and planning your career is simple, but it does take some quiet time and some concentration. This is not a process you want to rush. Like all great things in life, start with baby steps. And, like all great things on the internet – take a quiz.
1. Are you happy with your job?
2. When someone says “next year, you’ll be doing ______” do you shudder in horror at the thought of being in that office in a year?
3. Do you believe you’ll retire from your current job?
4. When someone asks you what your dream job is, would you say “my current job”?
If you answered “no,” “yes,” “no” and “no,” you’ve come to the right place. You’ve got some planning to do. As always, we want to help all of you – not just the new lawyers or the very experienced. No matter where you are in your career, you can take charge and turn it into something wonderful.
Attorneys 0-6 years
You’re relatively new to law, and you’ve undoubtedly had a very steep learning curve over the last few years. If you’re still wondering if your current job is the best job for you, it’s time to start asking some people who have experience.
1. Shadow a senior attorney. Are you currently working in the practice area you love, and you’re ready to move up the ladder? Speak with an attorney at your firm and ask to shadow him/her for a day. Find out what they do, who they speak with, what they know. Knowing how someone else got to their position and what skills are needed to do their job will give you some good insight on how to plan your next move within the firm.
2. Talk to more experienced attorneys. Most people really like to talk about their jobs, and they will probably be flattered to be asked about their jobs. Speak to an attorney who works in the practice area in which you’d like to work. Talk to the attorneys candidly about what they like and dislike about their jobs. Ask about the hours required, the type of experience required and so on. Obviously, once this “informational interview” is over, please send a hand-written thank you note. It’s only polite.
3. Volunteer. You are probably very limited on time, but if you’re really interested in another practice area, it may be helpful to get some unpaid experience. If you’re working and loving it without getting paid, it’s a good sign that you are probably well suited for that type of work. Plus, you’re gaining valuable experience to add to your resume!
Attorneys 7-12 years
You’ve been around the block and you know what is what. You’ve probably already decided whether or not you want to continue practicing within your current practice area. If so, it’s really time to make a move toward senior associate or partner. If you’re not practicing in the field in which you’d like to practice – what are you waiting for? You’ve got to get moving.
1. Show off. If you like your practice area, now is the time to start making a name for yourself in the firm. Don’t just come into work each day and do what you need to do. It’s time to step up and do even more – just make sure you’re getting credit. As uncomfortable as it is to “toot your own horn,” get tooting. It’s time that you’re noticed as someone who wants to stick around and become an integral part of the firm. You are a valuable contributor and you want to contribute even more. Let this be known! Show your face at legal events, start making connections and generating revenue.
2. Network, network, network. Don’t like the firm or the practice area? Time to put it in gear. You’ve got to start networking immediately. Join legal organizations that work in your desired practice area. Go to meetings and talk to anyone who will lend an ear. Ask questions, and ask for informational interviews. You need to find out how this new practice area works and what new information you need to learn in order to be viewed as an asset in that new practice area.
3. Start writing and speaking. If you know exactly where you want to be, it’s time to get your name out there as an expert in that practice area. There’s really no better way to do this than by getting your name in front of other attorneys. Writing articles and giving presentations are two ways that other attorneys will begin to view you as an authority in the field. With each publication and/or speech you give, you take another step toward becoming an expert.
Attorneys 13+ years
No. It’s not too late to change practice areas, firms or careers! You’ve got a lot of experience, and that goes far.
1. Generate revenue. If you’re at your dream firm, but not yet a partner, don’t worry. Becoming partner is only a solid book of business away. We know all there is to know about building a book of business. Follow our advice, and you’ll be on your way to partner status in no time.
2. Talk to your peers. If you’re thinking about changing practice areas, you need to speak to an attorney in that field. I know, it’s sometimes hard to speak to someone who has less experience as an attorney; but just do it. (Nike knows all.) You can learn something every day, even if you’ve been an attorney forever. Get curious! Talk to these attorneys about what they do every day. Write out the skills you have that may be helpful in this new practice area. Also list some things that you may need to review or learn.
3. Venture out! If you like what you’re doing but not where you’re working start looking elsewhere. If you’ve got a book of business, you’ll be very interesting to other firms. If you’re tired of the old grind and want to get out on your own, do it! It’s scary, but you’ve got the experience you need with at least 13 years under your belt. Think about what lifestyle you want and how moving firms or starting your own will help.
No matter where you’re at on the career ladder, take some time in the next couple of weeks to think about where you want to be and how you’re going to get there. Write plenty of lists – lifestyle, income required, type of firm, etc. – and let them “marinate.” In no time, you’ll know exactly where you’re going! (And, if you still need a little help figuring that out, contact us!)