A New Year Self-Review

By Raj M. Nichani

Raj M. Nichani, Esq. is the president of RMN Global Search, a full-service legal search company specializing in the permanent and temporary placement of legal attorneys with law firms and corporate legal departments. Raj and his team are dedicated to placing the highest quality candidates based on their own unique needs. The legal recruiting company was recently named the 13th top legal recruiting company in the nation by LawCrossing. You can reach Raj at (678) 842-5855, or by email at raj@rmnglobalsearch.com or by visiting http://www.rmnglobalsearch.comfor updated job postings and further information on the recruiting process.

The New Year has always been a time for personal reflection and improvement. For most of us, it is also a time for professional evaluation. With year-end bonuses dispersed and annual reviews completed, you have a better idea of your place and value to your firm than at any other time of the year. No matter if you plan on being a law firm lifer or are considering a job change, now is the best time to conduct your own personal and career evaluation.

Use your annual review as a starting point. We often try to hide our weaknesses in our annual reviews, but now is a great time to acknowledge and address these weaknesses as well as build upon your strengths. Reflect on your individual performance and your value to your firm. Think critically about what you achieved this year, what you did not and why not. Be diligent about what you want to accomplish in the next year and what resources you have to make these changes. Align yourself with people who will support these goals; if you do not have strong mentors within or outside the firm, do not be afraid to seek out support from your extended network.

Consider your firm’s performance as well – make sure your firm provides the right platform for you to be successful. Law firms can transform over the years as clients change, leadership changes, and partners join or leave. The best way to measure your firm’s performance (and your practice area’s) is to go outside of your firm. I often get calls around this time of year from partners wanting to know how their firm stacks up against others – sometimes because they are interested in switching firms – but mainly because they want to have a better idea of what their competition looks like. Likewise, you have to be aware of what’s going on at your firm from an outside perspective to really measure the performance of your practice group and of your firm as a whole. Attending local networking events, consulting mentors, or speaking to a recruiter will help you gain this insight.

Additionally, performing this annual self-evaluation will help you be more prepared in case of unfortunate changes in the market, your law firm, your clients, or some other scenario that will cause you to look elsewhere. While you may think you have a backup plan, in reality, most attorneys come to me in a panic when they are forced to move suddenly and have no idea what their options are. Hence, part of your self-evaluation must include planning for the worst (as well as the best). If you had to move tomorrow, where would you want to go? Where could you go? Your job prospects will vary considerably with each additional year of experience and you need to be aware of how your job prospects will change. No one wants to think about these scenarios, but doing this exercise even once a year could mean the difference between a smooth transition to a new firm and a crash landing at the first firm to give you an offer.

If you are considering moving, this is the best time to start preparing. Hiring for lateral attorneys tends to pick up after the first of the year, when firms have considered their upcoming needs (this timing may be different for those few firms whose fiscal calendar does not follow the standard calendar year). Take this time to build off your self-evaluation and deliberate on your transferrable skills and ability to apply these skills at another firm. Meet with trusted mentors and talk to a recruiter so you can make an informed decision about your options and expectations. Finally, don’t forget to incorporate your lifestyle preferences and financial needs into your search because these preferences will play a large role in finding the right firm for you.

Performing a self-evaluation cannot simply be another New Year’s resolution that you do not intend to keep. Rather, you have to think of it as an intentional and deliberate component of furthering your career development. But, ultimately, it is the best way to keep yourself competitive in the legal market; as the legal market changes and transitions into a new year, so must you.