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Resolve to advance your career this year

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Resolve to advance your career this year

The start of a new year is a perfect time to reflect on past accomplishments and to commit to changes that will take your practice to the next level.

DLA Piper partner Christina L. Martini recently wrote about the importance of new year’s resolutions on the Ms. JD blog.

But what should you focus on? First develop goals. Take stock of the past year, including your successes and challenges. Then think about how you would like your practice – and your life – to look at the end of the year. An interesting Harvard Business Review article recently encouraged readers to ponder: How can I ensure I’m more valuable at the end of the year than I was at the beginning?

As a new lawyer, becoming more valuable not only opens up more opportunities, it also provides the chance for more interesting, fulfilling work. In other words, it is a way to escape document review and its siblings.

To help you identify your goals, consider these questions:

  • What did you learn in the past year?
  • What would you like to learn in the upcoming year?
  • What do senior lawyers want you to learn?
  • What feedback did you get on your most recent evaluation?
  • Which work was most interesting?
  • Are you building relationships with senior lawyers?
  • Which senior lawyers are most willing to invest in your success?
  • What can you do to get senior lawyers to invest in your success?
  • How much do you know about your clients’ business?
  • Which clients and colleagues do you like the most?
  • Is your work aligned with your values?
  • Is there anything about your work environment that could improve?

When you have identified your goals, develop specific actions you can take to accomplish the goals. Then prioritize those actions them based on how easy they are and how much impact they will have. If you like apps, Priority Matrix promises to graph your priorities in – you guessed it – in a four-quadrant priority matrix.

This may sound counterintuitive, but don’t be too ambitious. Although your goals should be big, start with actions that are small. Trying to change everything at once could leave you overwhelmed before Spring.

Pick an action that is easy to accomplish. If it will also have a big impact, that is even better.

Depending on what you have picked, if possible, do your task at the same time every single day. I recommend blocking out time on your calendar and setting reminders. There are scads of habit tracking apps that may help. If you can complete your action every single day for 21 days, it will soon become second nature.

Some habits to consider include always entering your time first thing in the morning. Or making one networking connection every day. Or working to learn a new skill. Or learning more about existing clients. All of these will help you advance in your career.

Finally, there is one habit you can’t do at the same time everyday, but it will still pay dividends. The habit is saying “thank you” whenever appropriate. In the stress-laden world of law practice, saying “thank you” will help you shine. It will strengthen your relationships with support staff and other lawyers. And it will let partners know that you will be nice to their clients. Few habits that are as simple can take you as far.

I understand you may be skeptical. But try it – for at least 21 days.

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Grover E. Cleveland Grover E. Cleveland is a Seattle lawyer, speaker and author of "Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: The Essential Guide to Thriving as a New Lawyer" (West 2010). He specializes in programs to help millennial lawyers successfully transition from law school to practice, helping them provide more value and avoid common mistakes. He is a former partner at Foster Pepper PLLC, one of the Northwest’s larger firms. His clients included the Seattle Seahawks and other entities owned by Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen. he is a frequent presenter on lawyer career success for millennial lawyers at leading law firms and schools nationwide. Some of the questions in this column come from those programs. Readers may submit questions on his site or Twitter accounts. He is not related to the 22nd and 24th President of the United States. A second edition of Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks will be published this fall. Submit anecdotes to be considered for inclusion here.