Is there a ‘too early’ to think career progression in your legal career?

Whilst career progression is often a significant component of a persons thought process when thinking of a job change, early in your career it often takes a back seat to other considerations such as practice area, size of firm, remuneration, benefits and finally the quality of work.

Generally solicitors start talking more specifically about career progression as part of a job change around the 2PQE mark when associateship is on the horizon or has potentially been promised. Whilst different firms approach titles and internal progression differently, it’s still generally around this point where career progression is one of the key questions job seeking solicitors start to think about.

I always make it a point however when advising more junior or recently qualified solicitors that progression later in your career is built on a platform of previous performance and as such, it should be something you are working towards from the outset of your career.
To give a flavour to what I’m talking about take these three heading and consider the impact that high performance in each area might have on a future application:
Targets / Fee Earning
Being able to point to a strong fee earning track record is often one of the final pieces of the puzzle an employer will look for when considering making you an offer. It’s a brilliant situation in an interview to be able to say you’ve over achieved your financial targets the previous year(s) and this is something you can work towards within your first year of practice post qualification.
Quality of work / Autonomy
Being seen as a safe pair of hands and someone who consistently delivers quality and accurate work to clients is going to mean greater autonomy sooner than later and more opportunity to manage the full life cycle of transactions, cases and deals. This is of value to any employer and is a significant argument in your favour both internally and if you seek progression as part of a move.
Wins & Achievements
Achievements that stand out can be hard to come by early in your career, but if you spot an opportunity to get involved in something (even in a peripheral way) that looks like it will be a good win for your firm or department then put your hand up. These are things you can refer to at interview and put on your CV as an achievement that you were involved with and contributed to.
The work you do early in your career is the currency you end up negotiating with when seeking a move, seeking progression or seeking the terms and conditions that you are looking for from your current and future employer (ie; more money!).
All good work is career progression of another name.

Written by Robert Connolly, Director Legal & Compliance

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