Q: For the past three years, I’ve worked outside a traditional track as a legal professional. I’m happy on this path, but, at the same time, I’d like to advance my career. Can you offer any guidance as to how I can stay relevant in my job and enhance my marketability to future employers?
A: An increasing number of legal professionals are opting for the non-traditional path because these positions come with standard work hours, lower stress and other work-life balance benefits. And while these employees aren’t on their way to a corner office, they can progress in their legal career by attaining senior-level status within a firm or moving on to a larger one — thereby boosting their salary. Here are some ways you can keep advancing in your profession.
1. Stay on top of technology. Law firms use a variety of digital platforms for research, discovery, data analysis, filing, and case and practice management. The more proficient you are in such applications, the more valuable you become as an employee and job seeker. Remain up to date on legal technology, which you can do by taking relevant continuing education courses and following groups such as Legaltech News and the ABA’s Legal Technology Resource Center. And if a certain software or database subscription could enhance the firm’s efficiency, speak to your boss about it.
2. Specialize in a hot practice area. According to a recent Robert Half Legal survey of lawyers in the United States, demand is high for legal professionals with experience in litigation (especially insurance and commercial litigation), business/commercial law, real estate and labor/employment law. Boutique firms and Big Law also seek specialists in intellectual property, including trademark, copyright, patents and related litigation. If you’re at a general practice firm, see if you could start specializing in one of these in-demand areas.
3. Build your soft skills. Just because you’re not on a traditional career path doesn’t mean you are relegated to mundane tasks all day. Depending on your job, your duties can be highly visible within your firm. Honing your verbal communication skills can go a long way toward getting you noticed within a firm and when you seek to make a career move. So, strive to get out from behind the scenes by doing more public speaking, meeting with more clients and volunteering to make more presentations.
It’s a myth that legal professionals in non-traditional roles are in dead-end jobs. With planning and preparation, you can enjoy a long, satisfying and successful legal career.