Promotions in private practice
Promotions in private practice law firms are big news in the legal sector and often make local if not wider industry headlines. As much as being great PR for the lawyer being promoted, internal promotions are just as good for the law firms too. But what are the realities of promotions in private practice and how can you make sure to secure your next step up the career ladder?
A typical career journey
If you’re a newly qualified solicitor, having done all the work required to get you where you are, you may be feeling very ambitious at this stage. Your first choice is to either continue working for the firm who has trained you, should they want to keep you on, or move to another firm. Whichever you choose, you will likely be working within a team, usually under the supervision of a senior associate or partner. As you gain experience, you’ll take on more levels of responsibility. You will build on your technical legal skills and you will no doubt get a feel for client-handling, starting business development initiatives. It’s around this time you can expect your first promotion to kick in. In terms of timescales this can be anything from a year to a couple of years, depending on the size and structure of the firm.
What brings promotion?
In private practice, promotions are considered depending on your performance. Senior figures are looking for a consistent strong performance, seeing whether you meet your billable targets. If you bring new business to the firm, that will also shine a light on your accomplishments. And from there, once promotion sees you gain seniority, you can expect to start supervising junior colleagues. Progress in the early years may take a couple of promotions and several years before you reach associate level, but again that depends on the firm you are working for.
What can you do to secure promotion?
Here are a few pointers to consider if you are looking to secure a promotion and advance to the next level in your legal career.
1. Achieve results. One you’ve mastered the basics of the role and you can practice well; you then need to make sure you are hitting your targets as much as providing excellent client care.
2. Be seen and heard (in a positive way). Do more than what is expected of you to get the attention of your peers and be an asset to the department; someone who wants to help, to learn and achieve. Ask others in the team if you can help with their caseload. Just be careful to not take on too much and risk falling behind with your own workload and deadlines.
3. Win some business. Your growth as a lawyer throughout your career will depend on your ability to cultivate, build and nurture client relationships. Once the technical basics have been mastered, you can start to look at business development. Can you spot opportunities to cross work to other departments in the firm? This shows you can do more than just apply law. Get yourself out there and attend networking events to build relationships across different sectors too. Consider joining some of the local young solicitor groups too, where you can share experiences with your peers and get real-world lawyer advice as much as meet potential clients for the future.
4. Stand out a bit. Do you speak a second language? Perhaps you have connections to other industries that others in the firm haven’t. If you have a unique skill or experience that you can bring to your legal role, you can use this to your advantage to build those client relationships. Plus, your firm may see an exclusive opportunity for you based on such skills.
5. Love what you do. If you go about your everyday tasks with positivity and enthusiasm can carry them out well, you will grow in confidence as much as get noticed within the firm. Yes, there may be challenging times where obstacles need to be overcome or there’s an overall lack of promotional activity. But try to remain positive, persevere and work hard to be the best lawyer you can and in time, the opportunities will arise. If you lead with passion in everything you do, the results will come, your performance will be on point and the promotions will follow.
Whether the promotions at your current firm have led you to the ‘end of the track’ so to speak, or you feel frustrated with the lack of promotions in your department, contact us to speak with one of our professional legal consultants today. We help legal professionals across the country, including the major cities with advice on the market and opportunities for career progression. Contact us for an initial conversation in confidence.