Climb the Legal Ladder: 5 Ways to Get Noticed for a Promotion

By Jamy J. Sullivan, J.D.,
Robert Half 


With today’s widespread talent shortages, managers are increasingly looking within their legal teams for candidates to fill higher positions. This focus on internal mobility presents an excellent opportunity for you to accelerate your legal career and position yourself for that coveted promotion. Wondering how to do this? Here are five effective strategies. 

1. Understand what's expected in your desired role

Knowing the requirements of the position you aspire to is the first step. This goes beyond familiarizing yourself with the basic job description. Seek to grasp the underlying skills, responsibilities and temperament that define the role. If you’re aiming for a senior legal analyst position, for example, you should understand the decision-making capabilities required. A paralegal eyeing a promotion will need to be ready to tackle higher-level legal research, case management and client communication skills, as these are often the hallmarks of more senior roles in law firms and legal departments. 
How can you gain these insights? One way is through conversations or more formal mentoring relationships with those currently in similar roles or who have recently left the positions that interest you. This will equip you with the necessary knowledge and allow you to demonstrate your initiative and proactive attitude. 

2. Volunteer for new responsibilities

A willingness to take on fresh challenges is a marker of a promotable employee. To be highly promotable, though, you can’t just wait for tasks to come your way; you’ll need to seek them out. Volunteering for new projects, particularly those that align with your career goals, showcases your versatility and readiness for a more advanced role. 

This could mean offering to assist with complex cases, proposing new strategies or even stepping in to cover for a colleague. This doesn’t mean you have to say “yes” to everything you’re approached about, but showing a willingness to be a go-getter will make you stand out from the crowd. 

3. Make your boss and your team look good

Positioning yourself for a promotion isn’t just about your own accomplishments. It’s about making your boss and your team look competent as well. You become an invaluable asset when you can bring the best out of those around you. 

In a law firm or legal department, this can mean meticulously preparing briefs that make your boss’s job easier or offering to collaborate with colleagues on complex cases. Or perhaps, it could involve taking the lead in organizing client meetings, ensuring everything goes smoothly and showcasing the firm’s professionalism to the outside world.

4. Sharpen your skills

Building a repertoire of hard and soft skills is crucial to professional development. Any professional wanting to get ahead must continuously update their knowledge of the law, regulations and technological tools. 

Additionally, it’s essential to refine your soft skills—such as communication, leadership and negotiation—since these are often what set high performers apart. Practicing active listening in every interaction can improve communication skills for legal professionals. Also, engage in career development activities that involve team leading or management to work on your leadership abilities. To sharpen your negotiation skills, note how experienced colleagues handle themselves during meetings and case discussions and consider participating in negotiation training workshops. 

5. Foster relationships

Promotion decisions are based partially on how well an individual will fit into a new role and the team dynamics that the role entails. Building relationships throughout your firm or legal department will help you become known as a professional who can thrive in various situations. Attend company events, participate in team-building activities and make a conscious and visible effort to understand your colleagues’ duties and challenges. 

Finally, remember that your career is a marathon, not a sprint. Promotions rarely happen quickly. Keep pushing yourself, learning and growing. When the time comes, you’ll be ready to seize the opportunity that’s right for you. 

Jamy J. Sullivan is executive director of the legal practice at Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized talent solutions firm. Robert Half offers contract, temporary and permanent placement solutions, and is the parent company of Protiviti®, a global consulting firm. Visit