Tips for Breaking Out of Your Legal Career Rut

I’ve been fairly successful in my legal career, but lately I feel as if I’m at a standstill. I’m not striving or achieving as much as I have in the past. With about two more decades of work ahead of me, I hate to think that I’ve plateaued. Do you have any legal career advice for breaking out of this rut?

At the outset of their legal career, many professionals think the trajectory of their progress will resemble a straight and steady line upward and forward. But a legal career is rarely that uniform or predictable. Sometimes the path we take is a result of being at the right place at the right time, or it’s guided by forces such as the economy or local hiring trends. In most instances, however, the place we’re at is the sum of our career choices to date. So if you find your legal career stuck in the doldrums, and you want out, then it’s high time for a self audit. It may be just the thing to set you back on the path toward professional growth and career satisfaction.

Here’s some legal career advice for figuring out where you need to up your game.

  1. Evaluate your technical skills. Are you keeping up with key technology changes in your practice area? How is your proficiency in the latest legal software? How about research skills using cloud-based knowledge management systems like Clio? A large part of a thriving legal career is staying current with the latest technologies and trends.
  2. Assess your interpersonal skills. It takes more than legal knowledge to stay on the fast track. If you feel you’re at a standstill in your legal career, you should also consider an inventory of your soft skills. Are you easy to work with, or do you have an edge when interacting with colleagues? Do you embrace innovation or shy away from change? Ask an objective colleague to give you a soft-skills grade. If she or he rates you below a B, it may be a sign your interpersonal skills could use some work.
  3. Survey your social media. If you haven’t established a professional online profile yet, now’s the time. You might give your legal career trajectory a boost by cultivating an active and positive presence on social media. LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are good places to put your professional engagement and legal savvy on display. They are also ideal platforms for interacting with other thought leaders, keeping up with current events in the legal industry and expanding your network.
  4. Check in with your professional network. As they get busier in their work and personal lives, many legal specialists forget to invest time in professional relationships. If this sounds familiar, you can jumpstart your legal career by reconnecting with former colleagues and meeting new people. Make a list of the people you’d like to have coffee or lunch with — folks from your past or role models you’ve been wanting to meet. Then reach out to them with a friendly invitation.

When you realize you’re ready for change, it’s time to take stock of where you are and set some goals for where you want to be. Conducting regular legal career audits can help you identify your weak areas, shore them up and gain new skills. Follow this legal career advice, and you can get out of a rut and back on the satisfaction track again.