Over the past year working from home has become the norm. But does working from home hinder your career progression?
As junior lawyers we are told that face time with partners is key to progression, letting them know who we are what we are about and our capabilities. Even if as juniors we want to return to the office full time are the partners going to be there to get that face time?
Progression, however, is not about staying in the office long hours to prove to the partners that you are dedicated. It is so much more. Here are some ideas and tips that can be employed to aid the progression of junior lawyers.
- Mentor: Find a mentor either within your firm or outside. Check first that your firm don’t already run a mentoring scheme, if not, when deciding who the mentor will be you will want to consider (i) their career progression to date (ii) the duration of time they have been with your firm (or the firm they are in if you have gone external) and (iii) the department they work in. A mentor within your own organisation can provide first-hand experience of the progression pathway within the firm and what in particular the firm looks for when considering promotions. Choosing someone within the same department can be useful for introductions and insight into individuals within the firm that you may need to know. Choose someone you don’t work with on a day to day basis, this can help provide you with an impartial view.
- Career plan: One useful way of using your time at home, now the long commute is reduced, is thinking about putting together a career plan. Think about questions such as (i) what position within my current firm or another firm you would want to progress into, (ii) is there a particular sector you want to specialise in? (iii) do you want to move in-house practice or do you want to aim for partnership. Thinking about where you want to go will allow you to focus your mind and your actions on what is required for that path.
- Research: Researching the requirements of the position you want to be promoted to will help you align your objectives and your focus. Knowing and understanding what you need to show in order to get that promotion can seem like a simple task but to build those requirements into your current objectives and plan early can help build your portfolio of evidence for the time when promotions are being considered. Most firms have set criteria that a junior lawyer needs to evidence before promotion. If your firm doesn’t have this in an accessible form, this is where a mentor can be helpful; ask them what they needed to achieve in order to get a promotion. Ask your line manager, if applicable, and make sure your aspirations are on their radar.
- Internal network: Do not underestimate your internal network. It doesn’t just have to be individuals in your department but building your internal network and reputation will always stand you in good stead for progression. When you have worked with a colleague either in your own department or elsewhere on a piece of work or project, ensure you are asking for feedback. Depending on the firm this can be done formally through your objective software or even an informal email. Don’t be shy, ask the question. Keep in touch, it may be by asking them a question on their area of law that interests you or just by asking how they are getting on.
- Get involved: Get involved, whether it is with sector specific work, business development, team business development or external sector groups. Remote working may not be allowing you the face time with partners and colleagues that you would want but there are always ways you can make yourself heard and known. If you have read something in the press that is applicable to your department, think about discussing this at your next team meeting. Email updates to your team with new case law, recent acquisitions or anything you have seen in the news/press that is to do with a target client. Contact your network and arrange those calls and update your line manager when you have done so.
Ensure that you record all of the above and keep working at it. Having the evidence to provide at review meetings and appraisals will show that you are proactive and keen and allow you to have those honest conversations. It is never too early to start thinking about the next step and building that bank of evidence.
Emma Wilson is an associate at Mills & Reeve and an executive committee member at the Junior Lawyers Division