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How to tell whether your legal job is going well or not

Posted by: Lynn Sedgwick

When things are going well in your job it’s a great feeling. Work that interests you and which you find enjoyable doesn’t just make the week go by quicker, it leaves you feeling fulfilled and that you are making a difference. Indeed, those in the legal profession often feel that their job satisfaction comes from more than monetary reward; quality pro bono work and development provide opportunities for professional growth. 

But what happens if things aren’t going quite so well? What tell-tale signs should you look out for, and how can you tell whether seeking employment elsewhere would be beneficial? It’s an important consideration, and that’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you determine how well your job is going – and what you can do about it.

When things aren’t quite going right in your position

In life and at work things sometimes go wrong. Perhaps you applied for a promotion that you didn’t get or maybe you made an honest mistake in your work. Whatever the reason, when things don’t quite go right, it’s very off-putting. It can leave you feeling distracted, worried about your position, and often this leads to underperformance, creating a vicious circle. 

The most important thing is being able to recognise when you can make improvements and when things are beyond your control. For example, asking the partners for feedback might explain what you could do differently next time to secure the promotion. Or maybe you’ll discover that the budget for the new position was unexpectedly withdrawn, which isn’t something you can help. Positive action will give you a clearer answer than continuing to worry about a situation. 

How do you know if you should stay in your position or leave?

Being positive and taking proactive steps are important. However, if you feel that things aren’t quite right it’s still important that you consider whether you should stay with or leave the firm. 

If you’ve asked yourself what changes you can make for the better, acted on those changes, and things still aren’t working out, the next step is to speak to your manager. Can they provide extra support? If things don’t improve, or if help is not forthcoming then it may be time to consider a new position.

What are the warning signs for when things are not going well?

Determining whether your job is going well or not can be tough, although there are signs to watch out for which will help you decide. 

Internal factors: Low motivation is a clue that your job is not fulfilling you. If you dread working with colleagues or partners then it’s also a sign that things could be better. Spending time wishing for the weekend or dreading Monday morning are also clues that the job is not going as well as it could. 

External factors: Key things to watch out for that indicate your job is not going well are missing targets, being invited to performance reviews by management, and being passed over for promotion. Ask for feedback wherever you can as this will equip you with information which you can act on and change things for a more positive outcome. If the feedback is vague, very negative or you don’t receive any, then it could be an indication that the job isn’t playing to your strengths.  

What is your workload like: too much or not enough?

Your workload has a big impact on your success in a position. While targets can be motivating, if you don’t hit them, they can have the opposite effect. PwC reported that legal professionals across every level of experience are failing to meet targets. If you find yourself in a similar situation, ask yourself why it’s happening. Are the targets unrealistic, or is there simply too much work for you to do? In which case a discussion with your manager could result in more achievable targets and a more manageable workload.

On the other hand, maybe you feel that you don’t have enough to do. If you’re unmotivated or under stimulated by your work, it could mean that the position isn’t quite right. 

It’s about achieving a balanced workload that will challenge you without leaving you burnt out.

According to figures published in the Law Society Gazette, the number of practising solicitors has reached an all-time high at 140,000. If your area of specialism is oversubscribed, then it could mean you have little work to do. Consider a position in a different area and you might find that a new challenge brings a fresh outlook. 

Is the firm’s culture right for you?

The culture of a firm has an impact not only on your work but also how much you enjoy working in your job role. If the culture doesn’t appeal to you, then it can be a major factor in prompting you to leave. When we surveyed law firms earlier this year, we found that 78% of firms thought that attrition rates were getting better. This is significantly more positive than the 51% of firms who thought the same in 2016. Interestingly, the most common reason given for firms to think that attrition rates were improving was down to the firm’s culture, which shows it to be a very important factor. 

This also suggests that law firms are getting better at creating enjoyable cultures for all of their staff. If there’s still work to be done, or if the culture just doesn’t make you feel at ease, it will affect how you feel about your job and your performance in the end. 

Do the firm’s values marry with your own?

The values of a law firm are often linked closely with its culture - if the values don’t match up with your own, then you might find that things don’t go as smoothly in your job as you would like. Our salary survey found firms place particular importance on candidates with a sound commercial understanding, one respondent said: “There are plenty of law graduates, but we are finding that partners are looking for people with legal experience rather than law degrees.” If the firm you work for is very much driven by results, profits and big characters, and you’re more interested in providing excellent customer service, then you could find the values of the firm don’t fit with your own personal values. This can make your experience of a job very unenjoyable and increase your chances of looking for a new position in the future. 

Feeling happy with your decision

Whether you decide to stay in your current job role or move on, the most important thing is that it’s the right decision for you. Taking the above into account will help you establish whether or not you should stay and try to make improvements or to jump ship.

We’ve worked with legal professionals for decades to help them get the best out of their careers – whether that means staying or leaving a job.

So, if you’re feeling unsure about the best course of action, then speak to one of our team on 01772 259 121 - we’d be happy to help.

If you are thinking of moving jobs, then you may like to read our blog: Moving Jobs: Factors that influence your decision.

You can also register your CV online, and why not have a browse through some of our existing vacancies

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