How to Get Promoted

You don’t actually believe I’ve got some golden ticket that tells you how to get promoted do you?  If so – I think you need to take a minute and think about exactly what kind of information you are hoping to get online.

That said, there are some things you can be doing that are going to specifically position you for promotion, that many people don’t necessarily think about.

How to Get Promoted Tip 1 – Know Your Targets

This should be obvious, but just in case it wasn’t – if you want to know how to get promoted in your firm you need to know what that entails.

Are there documented requirements?  If so – the job is half done (but never completely done just from the policies as we’ll see).

If there aren’t any documented requirements and you’re wondering what you need to be focusing on, then the answer is simple – ASK SOMEONE.

So many young lawyers are terrified of asking their superiors about career advancement.  I appreciate that some partners are unapproachable, but unless you’ve got one of those then there’s really no reason not to take a couple of minutes to speak with your partner about their thoughts on your next step.

Importantly – even if there are policies about promotions and a list of objective criteria – don’t forget about the subjective criteria.  These ALWAYS exist.  There are unspoken requirements that, as best you can, you need to be aware of.  Look around you at the people who hold the position you want – what are their common characteristics?  Again, sometimes this can be dealt with via a conversation with a trusted senior person.  If there is no such person, then you’re going to have to figure this one out as best you can – at least make an educated guess.

How to Get Promoted Tip 2 – Know where the Power Is

If you want to get things changed, you need to know who the decisions come from.

Power in law firms is a complicated issue.  Sometimes the partner that you work for will have lots, and sometimes they will have none.

I accept that it can be difficult to figure out where the power lies in a firm when it comes to promotion, but it’s also essential.  So pay attention to others who come before you.  Ask them if they know.  It doesn’t have to be a big secret, but it can be tricky to broach the conversation to find out.

Why is this necessary?  It’s needed because you need to know who the person to convince is, and what they care about.  Only then can you know where you need to focus your endeavours.

But… Don’t Get Lost in Planning

One thing with trying to get promoted is that some people have a tendency to get a bit lost.  They spend so long planning, writing, noting, observing and obsessing that they actually forget to keep improvement.

It’s like reading every self-help book every written, but never actually getting to the point of helping yourself.

Ultimately you will get a promotion if you meet two criteria:

  • it makes economic sense for the firm to promote you
  • you meet the firm’s requirements for promotion.

If you are making money, serving clients, get alone with your team, networking well, and are a generally responsible contributor to the firm, then by and large you haven’t got too much to worry about.

So spend a little time planning and understanding the requirements – but not too much.

Rather than obsessing about how to get a promotion, how about obsessing about improving your contribution to the firm?  The one will likely follow the other.  And if it doesn’t – you can always leave and take your much improved skill set somewhere that appreciates it.

Happy Lawyering!