Practice resolutions for the junior lawyer // Trial & Error

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How to make 2015 the year your career takes off

By Atrisha Lewis

On Monday December 29th, 2014

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Tis the season for New Year’s resolutions. So why not include a practice resolution on your list? After canvassing resolution recommendations from peers in various practice groups, firms and practice settings, here are my top 5 practice resolutions for the junior lawyer — or any lawyer looking to improve her practice in the new year. 

  1. Implement a Bring Forward (BF) system. 
    Many litigators already have a BF/tickler system in place, but why let them have all the organizational fun? This habit can also extend to a transactional practice. I “bring forward,” or put in my calendar, a future reminder to do something, ensuring all of my deliverables are diarized and nothing falls through the cracks. Consider extending your BF system for business development purposes. For example, if you meet a new connection at a networking event, use a BF system as a reminder to reconnect in a few months. Better yet, set up a Google alert for news related to your connection’s employer so you get both a reminder and a conversation starter.
  2. Create a personal plan.
    A personal plan outlines your professional goals and specific ways to achieve them. If you do not have one, write down your professional goals and be accountable to them throughout the year. You can BF a quarterly review of your plan to make sure you are on track. Ask other lawyers or your human resources department for precedents. If you already have a plan, consider showing it to a more senior lawyer and ask for feedback.
  3. Join a new industry group. 
    There are a plethora of practice groups to join in your area. Resolve to join a new OBA section, or a group like Women in Capital Markets, and commit to attending at least three events throughout 2015. It’s a great way to expand your network.
  4. Make social media your friend. 
    Do you have a LinkedIn page? When was the last time you updated it? Do you have a Twitter account? How often do you tweet? This year, resolve to break into, update or expand your presence into one social media outlet. Chris Horkins, an associate at Cassels Brock LLP, wisely told me that social media is a strategic advantage that juniors can have over our more senior counterparts in building our practice. Why not use it? (Of course, always be sure to respect your firm’s social media policy.)
  5. Spend time strategically.
    So how will you make time for these resolutions? Resolve to be strategic in how you spend your valuable time. Examine your plate with a critical eye and consider what work can be better served by another colleague, articling or summer student who would be eager for the learning opportunity.  Consider reducing the amount of work you take on and re-allocate that time to digesting the work you are doing and to investing in your professional development.  

Atrisha Lewis is a second-year associate in McCarthy Tétrault’s litigation group. Follow her on Twitter: @atrishalewis

Special thanks to Rachel Allred for all the help with this column in 2014.