Last month, the International Bar Association released its Young Lawyers’ Report after conducting a global survey of young lawyers on topics including what they want and need from the profession.
Over 3,000 lawyers responded. In response to a survey question asking lawyers to describe factors having a negative impact upon their career progression, the top two factors cited by North American young lawyers were:
- Lack of available mentors and career guidance
- Difficulty balancing commitments
These results beg the question: what can young and senior lawyers do to address these issues? Today, I’m sharing some tips for both groups:
Issue One: Lack of Available Mentors and Career Guidance
One of the biggest lessons I learned early in my career is that nobody cares about my career and career progression like I do, so I need to do the work to build the career I want. This applies to many facets of working life, including mentorship. Your workplace may have a formal mentorship program, but don’t rely on your mentor to initiate contact. Reach out to set up a lunch or just ask a question. If your office doesn’t have a formal program, seek out mentors informally. You can also reach out to your firm or company’s marketing or business development team to ask about additional opportunities for training and mentorship.
The other day, I heard about a big law partner who schedules a regular video office hour to mentor associates. He picks one thirty-minute slot in his calendar and holds it open each week in a Zoom meeting. Any associate can join to ask questions about their cases, the firm, the legal industry, or just have a chat. In a world where many of us are still working remotely much of the time, this is a great, low-pressure way to stay connected and build relationships with our colleagues.
Issue Two: Difficulty Balancing Commitments
Adjusting to full-time working life can be hard, and life as a junior lawyer can be very unpredictable. You don’t know when work is coming or how long it will take you. If you struggle to prioritize, reach out for help! The senior lawyers you work with don’t always know or remember what’s on your plate. When you get a new assignment, it’s okay to say something like, “I’m currently working on XYZ project for you, due tomorrow. I’ll start this afterward, unless you prefer I prioritize differently.”
Communication is key here: if you know you’ll be super busy and need a junior’s help with something later this week, give them a heads up now. Similarly, make clear when you don’t need a response. If you’re sending emails late at night or on a Saturday because that’s when you have a free moment, but you don’t expect a response until the next business day, let the junior associate know. Be very clear with your expectations so they don’t assume every request is a fire drill.
If you’re a young lawyer looking to follow through on the above tips, check out Survive & Thrive, my online course designed to teach you everything you need to know to get your career off to a great start.
Midlevel associates should sign up for Managing as a Midlevel, which teaches you how to delegate and manage teams and people successfully while planning for your overall career.