- On December 13, 2020
Your reputation is key to your career, but most people give it little thought. For example, Jennifer Miller, the esteemed GC of Loon (Alphabet sub), confesses in Corporate Counsel Magazine as a young lawyer she made “the false assumption that simply keeping your head down and doing good work is all that is needed in order to progress and accelerate your career.” That’s not enough. “While your work must speak for itself, your attitude, work ethic, problem-solving ability, and growth mindset are all critical factors in standing out, building relationships of trust and gaining sponsors who push for your advancement.” In other words, you also have to build connections and get known for your skills.
What concrete steps can you take to develop your reputation? I like this post by executive coach Tracy Wilk about a successful manager who went from homelessness to Google through hard work. This manager lists the steps he took to build out his network: “I spoke at conferences when I had an opportunity. I joined industry associations. I wrote articles when I could. I facilitated classes when I could.” He makes the good point he “didn’t know which of these things was going to pay off.” But he “did all of them. They were work but they were investments in [his] personal brand and career. You may find some friends along the way and they may result in interviews and job opportunities.”
Building on those suggestions, here are 8 things for lawyers to do for their career:
- Get to know the top clients and the top needs of your employer. Work with the key players and on important projects to solidify your reputation.
- Develop relationships with your peers, subordinates, managers and clients. Go out of your way to build not just a professional connection but a personal one. Be kind to your subordinates and helpful to your colleagues, bosses, and clients. Your managers will notice if you make them look good and that your clients are asking for you by name. You’ll need all these connections later to swap job referrals, get background, or compare compensation.
- Build a skill set and get known for it by speaking at MCLEs; round tables hosted by firms, companies, or professional organizations; conferences; law schools, etc.
- Write articles on new areas of law, best practices, etc. Contribute content for groups that specialize in your area of law like privacy (IAPP), corporate governance, compliance, ACC networks, California Bar sections, legal ops (CLOC), etc.
- Get active with professional groups, e.g., your college or law school alumni group, professional organizations (ACC, MCCA, SF Bar, ChIPs, WGCN, etc.) and ethnic bars (APABA-SV; AABA; SABA-NC; FBANC; VABANC; La Raza; Charles Houston).
- Get recognized by media: American Lawyer (and its affiliates like Corporate Counsel and The Recorder); American Bar Association; Law360; Lawdragon, etc. Nominate friends for awards (and they will likely reciprocate!).
- Volunteer for top projects. You can do this at your firm/company by developing areas of law your company/clients need to assess. You can also throw events for organizations.
- Get off low-value projects that suck up your time (holiday cards). Use your time meaningfully!
To close, do what Jennifer did: “Throughout my career, I have set ambitious goals, continuously raised my hand for new opportunities and pushed my skill development by focusing on new legal areas.” Growth and a great reputation takes conscious effort.