What Not to Do As a New Legal Manager

I’m excited and a little nervous to be starting a new role as a legal manager. How do I make a good impression on my first day?

Congratulations on your new position. Whether you’re new to the firm or promoted from within, shifting into a legal manager role is a big deal. Your job goes beyond satisfying clients now; as a supervisor, you will also be called on to lead and motivate your staff. From day one, you need to show them that you’re fair, approachable and trustworthy.

But it’s not always easy. Becoming an inspiring leader takes some work, and many supervisors trip up along the way. Here are four common missteps new legal managers make, and some legal career advice for avoiding them:

  1. Failing to build relationships
    The first thing you should do as a new legal manager is to get to know your team. Remember, you supervise people, not projects. Without a foundation of trust and respect, you won’t be able to lead well. If you were promoted, take some time to establish your authority and credibility by meeting with staff members, describing your vision and goals for the department, and asking them about their own career goals.
  2. Overpromising 
    As you begin your new job, your boss and staff will approach you with requests and suggestions. Listen to everyone and take good notes, but don’t feel pressured to say “yes” right away. Promise to get back to them, and then take the time to reflect and deliberate. Later, when you make a decision, such as agreeing to mentor an employee, make sure to follow through.
  3. Rejecting offers of help
    Of course you feel the need to prove that you’re capable and independent. But that doesn’t mean you have to do everything on your own. In fact, no one comes to a job knowing everything they need to know, and the best leaders recognize their weaknesses and seek out advice. So don’t be afraid to ask questions, and show your thanks to anyone who helps you out.
  4. Dwelling on mistakes
    Every legal manager makes mistakes. The key is to bounce back from those blunders with grace, humility and professionalism. Learn from your missteps, but don’t dwell on them.

The best legal career advice as you begin this managerial path? Maximize your soft skills. Take the time to listen, observe, reflect and learn. Be fair and kind — to yourself and others. And good luck!