Moving Up: How to Position Yourself for a Legal Job Promotion

Question:

I'm interested in moving up the legal career ladder at my law firm, but I don't know whether my boss thinks I have what it takes for a senior position. What can I do to make myself more confident I'll succeed when I approach him? 

Answer:

As you imply, you need to do your homework before approaching your boss about moving up the in-house ladder. Here are some tips for positioning yourself for a job promotion. 

 

1. Observe what it takes for others. 

Take a look at the colleagues who’ve received promotions or were recently hired from the outside. What skills and traits do they share? Perhaps they’re a whiz with LexisNexis or the latest legal software. And on an interpersonal level, do they have exceptional written and verbal communication skills? Find out what they have that you don’t, and set out to fill any gaps. 
 
2. Build your case. 

Gather solid examples to demonstrate your value to the firm. Search your files and email inbox to find kudos from happy clients and thank-you notes from grateful co-workers. Think of the many ways you helped your employer gain new business, save money and improve processes. The more specific you can be, the better. 


3. Discuss your career path. 

After you’ve spent time in introspection and planning, it’s time for a conversation with your boss. However, now may not be the right time to ask outright for a promotion. Instead, request a meeting to discuss your in-house career path. Start by telling your manager how much you enjoy working at the firm, and then list the ways you’re contributing to revenue and upgrading your skill set. Finally, ask for honest feedback about what else you can do to prepare for an upward move, and request that they keep you in mind for a promotion if a vacancy comes up.  
 
4. Get more education. 

It could be that your law firm limits promotion to certain positions to those with the required education. So, your path to the top may require another degree or certification. You don’t mention your role in the firm, but if you’re a paralegal, attaining a bachelor’s degree will boost your chances of one day becoming a senior paralegal or law office manager. Similarly, to move up as a tax attorney, earning your CPA is a smart career move. These are longer-term goals, of course. If you want a more immediate promotion, aim for something that doesn’t require a long course of study, but always keep up with your continuing legal education (CLE), focusing on the courses that keep your skills fresh and relevant. 

Management rewards employees who are motivated, smart and loyal, but sometimes you need to be more proactive than simply doing excellent work. Position yourself for a promotion by laying the groundwork today.