Associates have three responsibilities.  Each is important but each will sometimes conflict with the other.  Learn the law.  Put the clients’ interests above your own.  Tend to the progress of your career.

If you’re living this life, you know that the third responsibility is often the one that is hardest to keep in focus.  Most associates end up assuming that doing their job well is the right way to attend to their career.  That’s a mistake.

Even if you are consistently living up to the first two responsibilities, career progress is not a given.  Associates are subject to economic forces they cannot control.  Associates’ positions depend not only on what they can contribute, but also on the ever-changing demands of clients and on the availability of other people in the firm to handle the same work in a profitable manner.  Unfortunately, that means that even when an associate has done everything right, it is entirely possible that she may still have no long-term future at her current job.

So, how do you tend to your career without compromising your professional obligations?  First, keep your eyes open.  Seek ways of making yourself valuable, even indispensable, to clients and to your employer.  If there’s an area that’s generating work, or that seems to be on the rise, raise your hand.

Second, get known.  Clients come through connections.  Make some.  Get out in the business community; engage with civic organizations; volunteer.  Marketing yourself is a major step toward controlling your fate in the law.

And finally, be realistic.  If the firm you’re in doesn’t have room for you or isn’t going to help your practice mature, then don’t sit still.  You owe it to yourself to find a career option that will work, and to do so before the market labels you as nothing but a worker-bee.

Personal contacts are valuable for exploring the market for a better option.  So are recruiters.  In the next Cambridge blogpost, we’ll talk about how recruiters can explore the market in ways that are impossible for job seekers on their own, particularly those worried about getting fired for hunting for a new position.


Jeff Schoenberg


Direct Of Partner & Group Placement