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February 3, 2016

1

Goal Setting as an Associate Attorney

by WSBA
Silhouette of a young female rock climber on a cliff.
Attorney Ally Kennedy Garcia offers her tips for gaining a foothold for success in law firms.

Silhouette of a young female rock climber on a cliff.Attorney Ally Kennedy Garcia offers her tips for gaining a foothold for success in a law firm.


As an associate, it sometimes feels like the work that you are doing is for someone else. Likely you are working your case load in addition to handling many of a partner’s cases. You have a set salary (and if you are lucky, bonus incentives) and you are required “face time” in the office. However, it is still important to set goals for yourself to make the most of your time both in and out of the office.

Below are questions that you can use to guide you toward making meaningful goals in each area of your life.

1. Professional
One of the benefits of being an associate is that the firm is willing to invest money into your training and knowledge. Be sure to maximize all of the training available to you, even though you are busy with your caseload. Also, even though you may not be planning to open your own firm or become a partner right now, it is important to develop your name and reputation in case you do decide to go that route.

  • If you had to choose only one type of case to do for the rest of your career, what would it be?
  • How could you increase your caseload in this area?
  • What types of cases interest you, but you feel like you don’t know enough about?
  • Are there educational opportunities through your firm to learn more about this? (CLEs, mentoring, asking for networking contacts, etc.)
  • What educational opportunities (i.e. CLEs, lectures, etc.) are available to you that you have not yet used?
  • Do your clients know your name apart from your firm?
  • How can you increase your visibility as a lawyer under your own name? (i.e., Avvo, legal clinics, speaking opportunities, etc.)
  • Do you feel like you are an expert on a certain type of case(s)? How can you make that expertise known to other lawyers in the community as well as to potential clients?

2. Personal
Being a lawyer is a vocation, which means that our personal and professional lives are dedicated to the work and the cause. As such, the job can be all-consuming and take over many areas of our lives, especially because of associate hours (which are rarely under 50 hours a week). It is important to develop and kindle what you love apart from the law.

  • Are there any hobbies that you would like to pursue or do more of? (Book club, skiing, painting lessons, etc.)
  • Would you like to exercise more? If so, what steps can you take to do so?
  • What do you do to relieve stress? Could you be doing more?
  • What are three things that you want to experience by this time next year?
  • How many times do you pick up your phone after work hours to do something work-related, like checking work emails? Take an evening and observe without judgment.
  • After you have done this exercise, take inventory. How many times when checking your work email was it something that needed to be seen immediately? How many things did you do that could have waited until the next day?
  • If you are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of emails that you are getting, is there a way to cut down?
  • How much time did you spend on your phone in total? Could that time be used for something else that you enjoy, like reading a book?

3. Relationships
Nourishing our romantic partnerships is important for our families and ourselves, but it can sometimes get lost between children and work. Scheduling time together helps make sure it actually happens.

  • What is your favorite thing to do with your partner?
  • What is your ideal number of “date nights” that you would like to have a week/month?
  • What activity would you like to try with your partner that you have never done before?
  • How much time do you spend on your phone working (or “working”) when with your partner and family? How can you cut down on that time?
  • Do you have a reliable babysitter? Would having a set weekly babysitter help ensure time together?

4. Family
The questions below are intended to help you plan and organize your time out of the office. It will help you determine what you want in terms of firm benefits, such as flex time, more vacation or sick time, part-time work, a four-day workweek, work-from-home, etc, so that these can be communicated and negotiated with HR.

  • What are three things that you would like do with your kids in the next month? In the next year?
  • What is your dream family vacation? Where would you go? How long would you go there for? What types of activities would you do?
  • Would you like to have more time with your kids during daytime/working hours? If so, what would you like to do with that time together?
  • Did you use all of your vacation time last year? Why or why not?
  • Did you use all of your sick time? Why or why not?

We would love to hear what you come up with! Leave a comment below.

This post originally appeared on amigalawyers.com.

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