Considering A New Career In The New Year? Employment Expert Offers Some Advice

Sunday, February 1, 2004 - 00:00

It's the start of a new year and professionals everywhere are re-evaluating their goals. In the legal industry, some attorneys may be experiencing a mid-career crisis says Sheron Hedley-Smith, executive director of The Affiliates, a leading staffing firm specializing in the placement of attorneys, paralegals and other highly skilled professionals.

According to Ms. Hedley-Smith, after years of operating successfully under the pressure of increased workloads and client demands, downsizing or mergers and acquisitions, many are unsure of whether they want to strive for the coveted status of law firm partner or climb higher up the corporate ladder.

Ms. Hedley-Smith adds that attorneys who have doubts about their next career move need not remain in a professional quandary. "Today, many lawyers are investigating alternative roles or interests to supplant the traditional partner or executive path," she says.

"Often when someone has reached a professional plateau, the job itself becomes the focus of blame," Ms. Hedley-Smith adds. "Conducting an honest self-evaluation is an important first step toward a greater sense of challenge and achievement. By assessing their work from many angles, attorneys can gain a broader view of achievements, the various factors that contributed to their success and which career elements provide the most satisfaction."

Ms. Hedley-Smith suggests the following ideas for administering a career audit:

• Examine your objectives and ambitions. What drew you to your current position? Whether it was a growth opportunity, compensation, security, working with esteemed legal experts, a certain practice area or a combination of factors, this exercise will help define the circumstances or events that may have dampened your initial enthusiasm and how you can become reinvigorated with your work.

• Research you work history. Review prior cases or projects of which you are especially proud. What contributed to your sense of accomplishment? It may be possible to perform these types of activities more often.

• Evaluate your work skills. Do any require improvement? Are your practice area abilities as strong as they could be? Other proficiencies include leadership and interpersonal skills, technical expertise and business acumen.

• Define yourself professionally. How do you perceive yourself beyond your job? Do you play an active role in the legal community? Serving as a guest speaker for an industry organization or undertaking pro bono work provides an excellent opportunity to use your legal expertise and become more involved locally.

• Look to the future. Which projects and practice areas wold you like to focus on - not just now, but two, five and 10 years ahead? Revisit your career aspirations, then create an action plan for reaching these goals.