6 Steps to building a legal career: Step 5

10 Jul 2014

In 2014, we’re going to be taking you step-by-step through building your legal career, with practical tips and changes you can make to your approach to help you to grow in your profession this year. For our penultimate article, we discuss the necessity of understanding the legal career path and the route you see yourself taking along it.

Step 5: Plan your career path

With the legal market changing drastically over the last few years, it is no surprise that candidates’ potential career paths have also changed from that which they once were. Not so long ago, a junior lawyer or articled clerk would work their way up predictably to partner within a few years, now the options for advancing are myriad and junior lawyer’s guarantees of senior positions much less certain.

For those at the start or in the middle of a career path, taking stock of where you are, whether intentionally or not and assessing your options for the future is a vital process. Where once you may have been heading towards certain seniority, recent market changes may mean that your route is about to take some twists and turns.

Recognise the legal career path in 2014

The legal career path no longer simply consists of working as hard as you can at a junior level to achieve partner. The options are now wide ranging and small decisions earlier on in your path can influence where you end up and at what sort of firm.

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Whilst joining a partnership as a partner or higher is still a viable option for many, new opportunities are present in Limited Companies or LLPs. Lateral movement across paths is possible and, indeed, potentially quite likely; the huge number of trainees still within the market are clamouring for a smaller number of associate positions, of which there are not enough available to go round.

Judging where you are on this path is crucial to recognising the next step in your career and proactively taking it, rather than allowing yourself to be dragged down a different path you would rather not explore.

Recognise strengths

As the legal career path diversifies, so will the levels of expertise present within it. As you have moved along in your career you will have picked up new skills that others do not have. Potentially, these skills may be in areas you have not previously considered pursuing.

Whilst it is perhaps not vital that you use your new strengths, it is useful to analyse them, with the intention of seeing if your intended career path still suits. New skills picked up in newly created positions could be extremely beneficial in today’s legal industry, if you are willing to follow them down their natural course.

Firms need to work with employees on strengths; employees need to find firms that are willing to do so

Within this new career path, finding a firm willing to work with your strengths, or to develop new ones, is vital. It will be little use for candidates who have found themselves with a specialism to be at a firm unwilling to embrace that area of law. Firms meanwhile, must invest both interest, expertise and money in their people if they hope to grow. Abandoning candidates on a different path to the firm will ultimately lead to lost talent and high turnover of staff, both things new market legal firms will know they can ill afford.

Previous articles in this series:

Step 1: Ask the right questions
Step 2: Know your strengths and development areas
Step 3: Recognise changes within the industry and adapt to them
Step 4: Grow your network, understand your following