Making a Career in Law Work: Getting your priorities right and action planning

Making a Career in Law Work-Getting your priorities right and action planning

A Legal Career: Where are YOU headed?

As a former criminal barrister, practising at Broadway House Chambers for the best part of 20 years, and dealing with heavy weight Rape and Sexual Offences cases, I have direct experience of managing the competing interests of the responsibilities/ pressures of the job and life outside the office. I understand how easy it is to plough on with the daily firefighting without a clear vision of what you want and a plan of how to achieve it. When did you last look at where you want to be in 20 years time? Or make a serious, detailed plan for your career progression over the coming months/ years? For me, whilst still at The Bar and prior to setting up my own specialist Corporate and Executive Coaching business, I must have considered the “plan” a maximum of twice a year, and only in passing – talking about my pension with my financial advisor and, briefly, with my senior clerk at the annual practice review meeting.

Formulating a Plan

If you want to move from Associate to Solicitor, Partner to Equity Partner, Junior Counsel to Queens Counsel, Recorder to Judge, do YOU have a plan? Do you have a supportive network of people championing you and helping you to get there? And how about if you wish to move from being a maternity career break returner to a successful lawyer with more flexible working?

My Suggestions

  • Firstly, “Start with the end in mind”, Habit 2 in Stephen R. Covey’s book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective people. If you don’t know what you want, how can you formulate a clear plan to get there? Identify the things that are important to you. Consider the consequences of not achieving them. Then stretch yourself to think of your career plan, initially, for the next 3, 6 and 12 months; then for the next 3, 5, 10+ years.
  • Now, write down the overall plan. By committing it to writing, you are well on your way to making the first, and most crucial, step: a commitment to taking action. Not only is it helpful to see where you are headed, but also to motivate you to take action to achieve it.
  • Next, identify your priorities around any work-related challenges which, once addressed, will make achieving the plan more manageable. Order these priorities.

Getting Priorities Right

Having spoken recently to a number of solicitors interested in coaching as a means by which to support their people work more productively and purposefully, I have identified some recurring examples of priorities which may resonate with you:

  • What’s in it for me? Why am I doing this?
  • Life Balance/ Boundaries
  • Time management/ Efficiency
  • Financial considerations
  • Distraction Avoidance
  • Resilience and our ability to deal with overwhelm
  • Communication skills
  • Belonging/ Congruency
  • Leadership

Once you have identified around 6 work-related priorities, consider where you are now compared to where you want to be. Then break each priority down individually to identify specific plans addressing each one.

Coaching: Equipping you with the Right Tools to Take Action

I then use a really effective coaching tool with clients to examine each priority individually and support them make an action plan for achieving their desired outcomes.

Here it is, summarised:

What is your final goal, perhaps for in about a year’s time?

What is your first journey goal, say for in the next few days or weeks?

Much like climbing a mountain, every journey starts with a single step. By breaking it down into manageable chunks you can start the forward momentum and see the path to the end goal more clearly.

Examine your strengths to support you achieve your objective, and to encourage you on your less motivated days.

Identify the obstacles you might face on route to anticipate, and more easily overcome, them.

Then commit to what action to take, and most importantly, when?

Action Planning with Commitment

Committing to a particular action within a specific time frame is an extremely effective method by which to ensure the journey is started. I’ve heard it said many a time, positive intentions without positive actions lead to positively nothing, so have the courage to commit, not just to writing down the plan, but getting on with facilitating those actions. Now. Congratulations. You are on your way!


Nikki Alderson is a specialist corporate and executive coach empowering female lawyers to achieve their career ambition whilst creating congruent lives. For more information,follow me:

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