Three tips for in-house lawyers wanting to progress their careers
If you wrote a 5-year career plan anytime since 2015, I bet you didn’t expect the storm of 2020.
Many Lawyers in Australia have had their work, their practices and their careers upended by the COVID crisis.
Some have experienced the positives. More work (and more business-critical work) has boosted their skill set and brought them closer to key stakeholders. Other corporate Lawyers are facing reduced hours, redundancy or seemingly insurmountable workloads.
But among the chaos, top Lawyers are using the new working conditions and operating environment to connect, lead and grow.
In this article, we’re highlighting three key ways that savvy in-house Lawyers are building their profiles while managing the crisis.
1. Build influence
Influence is the cornerstone of a successful Legal career. In a corporate environment, where the Legal function’s ability to manage risk hinges on its influence over key internal stakeholders.
But it isn’t always easy for Lawyers. Research shows that business users are unsatisfied with their Legal team. In a 2019 Gartner survey, business users reported that Legal was an execution bottleneck, rather than a strategic business partner.
Despite increased workloads, COVID-19 has presented an unusual opportunity for Lawyers looking to increase their influence.
Throughout the shutdown, stakeholders across the business have called upon Lawyers for advice. Whether it relates to force-majeure provisions, government regulations, or employee termination processes, the Legal team is now in high demand.
Risk mitigation is front of mind for executives and decision-makers. Lawyers who provide meaningful, strategic and commercial advice will position themselves as partners in business decision making, rather than bottlenecks to execution.
Even as the crisis abates, Lawyers who prove critical business partners throughout COVID will be called upon in years to come.
However, the key to building influence is to get and stay connected…
2. Get connected
This is a great time to build career-advancing connections within your Legal team and with other business units.
COVID-19 has both created physical distance AND drawn businesses closer. As companies shut down, IT departments rushed to implement and update communications technologies.
From video conferencing, to messaging, to collaborative workspaces; technology binds us. This incites frustration in old-school Lawyers, and excitement in the Lawyers of the future. Below are two ways that you can advance your career by becoming more connected.
Talk to your team
Powerful teams succeed. In-house Lawyers who bring their team together and support their superiors will be in a much better position to advance their careers through this crisis.
Communicating with your team involves;
- Making sure your supervisors know your focus areas;
- Sharing your key learns and successes;
- Seeking advice on the things you are struggling with and;
- Staying positive, on the whole, to help contribute to the overall team atmosphere.
By implementing these simple communication methods, you will build invaluable connections that can help you move forward along your career path.
Talk to the business
Legal teams that proactively communicate with business users can empower business users and overcome problems before they even arise. This enhances the perceived value of the Legal function and can save businesses money.
Here are four ways Lawyers have been increasing communication with business users during the shutdown:
- Sharing Legal team updates at company-wide meeting;
- Posting policy and procedure updates on key message boards (for example on blogs, Slack, Confluence);
- Holding function-specific meetings to share relevant updates (for example, meeting with marketing to discuss messaging strategy as spend ramps up);
- Summarising government and regulatory updates for business users (from JobKeeper to COVID restrictions).
By talking to the business more, Lawyers are putting their agenda in front of mind, and continue to show their value. They are also curbing the force of issues before they even arise. This helps shape perception of the Legal team, moving from blocker of execution to enabler of strategic decision-making.
It’s easy to see 2020 as a year of maintenance. But top Lawyers continue to grow. They seek to expand their abilities, learn new skills, and develop their core competencies
From webinars to CPD to online university courses, there are a plethora of ways that Lawyers can grow during lockdown.
One great way to build your skill set and credibility is by leveraging social media. LinkedIn is a haven for thoughtful Lawyers and Legal leaders who are sharing ideas, learning about best practice and connecting with other thought-leaders in the industry.
In-house Lawyers like Anna Lozynski are building a personal brand around their Legal expertise and, in doing so, future-proofing their careers. Organisations like the Association of Corporate Counsel post updates, tips and insights from Legal teams on the front line.
As a Lawyer looking to grow by leveraging social media, here are some quick wins:
- Review your profile and update your experience;
- Connect with the industry’s top thinkers (including Plexus!);
- Follow relevant organisations (from Legal industry associations to other businesses in your industry) and;
- Post about your experience, lessons and insights (not about new legislation!).
Over to you
It’s easy to be reactive in the COVID era. But in every crisis, there is opportunity.
By delivering critical advice to build influence; by connecting with your team and with other departments; and by growing your expertise and credibility, you give yourself the opportunity to profit in the COVID chaos, and prepare yourself for future success when the dust settles.
“If you are not in the process of becoming the person you want to be, you are automatically engaged in becoming the person you don't want to be. ” - Dale Carnegie
2020 won’t go down in history as the best year ever. In fact, it’s fast becoming the year people will look back on as ‘the one where everything changed’.
Every dark cloud has a silver lining though, so be sure to keep your eyes and ears out for the opportunities that exist all around you.
And if it is time for a change? We’re always looking for exceptional Legal talent.