When many people start out to chart a set of New Year’s resolutions, they tend to focus on their personal lives, pledging to take steps such as eating healthier or exercising more. But the changeover from one year to the next provides the perfect opportunity for professionals to revisit their career progress as well. Here are some areas that may hold improvement opportunities for corporate attorneys:
Office relationships. Some attorneys who are superb professional networkers may fail to extend these talents to the office. The new year is an excellent time to renew relationships with others whom counsel may depend on but interact with less often. Inviting a colleague or other staff member for lunch or coffee to catch up on personal and professional news is one of many approaches. This is also an opportune time for in-house lawyers to consider how they could be better coworkers themselves. Ideas include volunteering to help an overburdened colleague or, for managing attorneys, looking for ways to improve office morale, such as praising others’ achievements or organizing a team-building activity. Efforts to nurture office relationships and be more attentive to others’ needs will improve lawyers’ standing as a trusted resource — and increase job satisfaction in the process.
Skills. When things are moving at a breakneck pace, it’s unlikely counsel will take time out for something as seemingly “back-burner” as evaluating their skills. However, abilities and relevance to the department’s goals — and being able to crystallize and articulate these — are key to career security, either in a current job or if a new opportunity arises. Once pinned down, a strategy to broaden this expertise during the coming year also will be career-enhancing.
Accomplishments. Achievements made should be documented for use at performance review time, even the smallest. Not all efforts can turn out to be home runs for the department, and sometimes the very things that keep an organization running smoothly are overlooked simply because their effect is cumulative.
Networking. When work life gets hectic, networking often falls by the wayside. If attorneys’ efforts to cultivate and expand their professional contacts have been spotty, the new year can be a time to solidify ties that may have weakened. A start could be upgrading a LinkedIn profile and expanding a network there. If involvement with professional associations has lapsed, counsel may want to carve out some time to renew relationships with these groups and become more active members. To stay on track, setting specific goals is a good practice –attending a monthly professional event or add a certain number of networking contacts per week, for example.
Attitude. As many in the legal field would probably acknowledge, it hasn’t always been easy to stay upbeat in the last year or so, as legal departments have faced one of the most difficult business environments in decades. Nonetheless, it’s imperative for those in management positions to stay as positive and poised as possible as an example to others.
Staff morale. Employee morale has suffered in the recession, and those in leadership positions are responsible for building it back up. How can employee commitment and engagement be boosted this year? Can attorneys lobby for certain benefits and perks to be reinstated for their teams? Meeting one-on-one with staff also can be helpful in creating a plan together for them to develop new skills and pursue fresh challenges. Anything that makes team members’ roles more satisfying will improve morale and productivity in the short run while enhancing retention once the job market picks up again.
The dawn of a new year always brings with it renewed promise and hope in many ways, both personal and professional. Counsel can use this time to examine how they’re doing in these key areas of their work lives.
Charles A. Volkert is executive director of Robert Half Legal, a leading staffing service specializing in the placement of attorneys, paralegals, legal administrators and other legal professionals with law firms and corporate legal departments. Based in Menlo Park, Calif., Robert Half Legal has offices in major cities throughout the United States and Canada.