Professional Roadmapping For Lawyers: Aligning What You Do with What You Want

October 3, 2023


After a somewhat turbulent 2022, this year remains shrouded in uncertainty. It’s become more crucial than ever for lawyers to assess their careers. Career management isn’t solely for those who are dissatisfied; it’s relevant for everyone. 


Now is the time to improve your marketability by planning, preparation, and positioning for that “perfect opportunity.” Your goals are as critical to your success in your current situation as they are when you are considering a career move. 


Goal planning can be challenging and time-consuming as it involves, among other things, an honest evaluation of your values, interests, strengths, and weaknesses. For lawyers who don’t know where to start, consider the following: 


 1. Conduct a Personal Audit 


The purpose of conducting a personal audit is to gain clarity about where you stand in your legal career and what you aspire to achieve. This is a pivotal first step in career planning, laying the foundation for meaningful goal setting. Take a moment to step back and reflect on your legal career journey thus far. 


  • What aspects of the law do you find most engaging and fulfilling? 
  • Do you want to be a partner in firm?  
  • What type of platform best suits the practice you are or looking to develop? 
  • Do you want to move to the business side?  
  • Do you want to move up to a more senior position in your legal department? 
  • Are there skills you need to develop or gaps in your knowledge? 


One approach to this is conducting a SWOT analysis, a strategic tool providing a structured and insightful perspective on your legal career. We also suggest seeking unbiased feedback on your goals, direction, and marketability from professionals such as legal recruiters, career coaches, and mentors. 


With this knowledge in hand, conduct an honest self-assessment to determine your preferred path. 


2. Career Plan 


Setting clear and well-defined goals is essential for effective career planning. For lawyers, these goals can encompass mastering a specific area of law, achieving a particular billable hour target, or taking on leadership roles within your firm. Additionally, consider personal growth objectives, like improving your communication skills or maintaining a healthy work-life balance. 


Regardless of your goal, it’s crucial to assess whether your current practice environment offers a reasonable path to achieve your goals in the medium and long term. 


  • Can you gain access to the kind of work you want?   
  • Can you get mentorship suitable for your career development?   
  • Will you be empowered to build your own brand (if that is important to you)?  


These questions are helpful when evaluating whether your current environment aligns with your goals. A long-term perspective, coupled with clarity and focus, empowers you to achieve more substantial and meaningful goals. 


Remember – if you fail to plan, you plan to fail!  


3. Execute & Review 


With a well-defined career plan in place, the next step is execution. Successful lawyers are not just dreamers; they are doers. For example, if your ambition is to become a rainmaker, the need to establish business contacts and a market presence may arise sooner than most lawyers realize, so crafting a plan around this and acting on it is vital. Similarly, if you aspire to be a leading figure in a specific practice area, seize opportunities to distinguish your expertise. 


If your current practice doesn’t align with your goals, it’s worth considering whether you can adjust your existing circumstances (e.g., seeking work from other groups, engaging in pro bono matters, etc.) to find a suitable solution or gain relevant experience in the interim. Otherwise, exploring external practice alternatives may be optimal. 


We also recommend regularly reviewing and adjusting your goals as your career progresses and your interests evolve. Reviews hold you accountable for making tangible strides toward your goals and provide insight into where you may want to redirect your development. Your goals may evolve, or new opportunities may present themselves. 


Career Planning Beyond the Job Hunt 


It is never too early (or too late) to set goals and to take steps towards them. Lawyers who don’t actively set out and pursue their goals run the risk of allowing others to set their plans for them, which may limit their chances of finding long term career satisfaction.   


Career planning isn’t just about finding a job; it’s about crafting a fulfilling legal career that aligns with your passions, values, and life goals. By actively considering these factors and integrating them into your career plan, you can work toward a legal career that is not only successful but also personally rewarding. 


Ultimately, aligning what you do with what you want results in happiness.