SWOT Analysis for Lawyers
Lateral movement is a way of life for both lawyers and law firms. Lawyers can find themselves moving laterally at any point of their career and law firms have made lateral hiring a central part of their growth strategy. Nonetheless, a successful move requires more than just a positive attitude or good intentions. Given the current situation, we have been asked many times whether this is the right time to even be thinking about lateral movement. While things are changing day by day, the critical thing to remember is that the planning and preparation you do now will help you in the long run.
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail! Most lawyers can readily articulate what they are moving away from when leaving a firm, but lawyers making successful moves can also readily articulate what they are moving towards.
Career management is not just for dissatisfied lawyers, it is for everyone. Take the time to identify and list your skills and long-term objectives, and figure out where you want to go. One way to do this is by conducting a SWOT analysis.
SWOT analysis is a planning technique used to identify and evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of a business endeavor to make well-informed decisions. For career management, you would use SWOT analysis to identify your internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as external opportunities and threats to your career success. Each element must be applied with the goal of maximizing your career development and bringing you closer to your overall career aspirations.
Remember, you must be honest with yourself and clearly define each SWOT component. Also try to consider how you can capitalize on your strengths and better develop your weaknesses.
Strengths refer to your personal, positive attributes. Examples include:
- Relevant skills, competencies, and work experience
- Education and training
- Extent of network (including clients and contacts)
- Commitment and passion for your field
- Positive personal characteristics
Weaknesses refer to your personal, negative attributes. Examples include:
- Skills gaps
- Poor work habits
- Client development
- Negative personal characteristics
Opportunities refer to positive external conditions at a law firm that you do not control, but can plan on taking advantage of. Examples include:
- Client leveraging
- Professional development and career advancement
- Platform and bench strength in your practice area
Threats refer to negative external conditions at a law firm you do not control, but the effect of which you may be able to lessen. Examples include:
- Market conditions and negative trends in your practice area
The common theme amongst successful lateral moves is the ability to take an active role in making the most of a transition. Over the next few months, periodically revisit your SWOT chart to add a level of sophistication, increase specificity, and enhance its effectiveness in your career planning. Once you have a sense of how you want to see your legal career unfold, the next step is taking active steps toward it. It is never too early or too late to set goals and take steps toward them.