Q: I’m in-house counsel at a small law department, and I feel like I’m stuck in a rut. I’d like to acquire more skills through professional development so I can move up in my career and merit a bigger salary. What are some practical steps I can take?
A: No matter the size of your firm or the stage of your legal career, it’s always a smart idea to keep learning and growing professionally. Here are several ways you can increase your earning potential and move up the career ladder.
1. Hone your technical abilities. Are you keeping up with the rapid changes in legal software and platforms? Employers value professionals who are comfortable with technology. You could go the DIY route with self-study and attending webinars on topics like eDiscovery and LexisNexis. Sites like Lynda.com help you acquire advanced skills in essential software like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access, a database management system. Once you’ve gone through the initial learning, regularly apply these technical abilities in your current job so you become proficient.
2. Sharpen your soft skills. Top-notch legal knowledge and software proficiencies don’t mean much if you can’t think critically, work in a team or draft a typo-free brief. In your current job, focus on polishing your work ethic and abilities in verbal and written communication, client service and time management.
3. Branch out. In a small law departments, attorneys have the opportunity to wear many hats. The more experience you acquire in your current role, the better prepared you’ll be to move up to a legal job with greater responsibilities.
Rather than feeling like you’re in a rut, change your mindset. Think of your current job as training grounds for better things to come, then take the necessary steps to help attain higher levels of success.