With the champagne, fizz and fireworks of New Year over, like many other legal professionals you’re probably anticipating the opportunities that lie ahead this year. Ambition-filled articles on the topic abound: ‘Make 2018 your most successful year’, ‘Set your goals high for 2018’ and more.

While this is all very inspirational, the reality is that without clear and measurable goals and a practical set of steps to get there, you could end up in the same work patterns by February. That means looking at Facebook a little too much, and working endless matters without a clear idea of where you are headed.

So how can we set career goals for 2018 which will still feel real and exciting in July, and could be nailed by December?

  1. Think carefully and clearly about your long-term career goalsSet aside some time to articulate what you want to achieve this year in your career. Not what your partner, your firm or your business want you to achieve for 2018.
    Step out for coffee or a drink alone, and brainstorm where you have got to so far and what you are going to achieve for 2018. Once you’ve written these points down, consider sharing them with your partner or a close friend. This will make you accountable to someone else, and means you can’t pretend those career goals don’t exist come February.
  2. Make this goal specificUse clear, measurable language that sets your direction in unmistakeable terms. If you just write, “For 2018 I want to be more successful and well respected in my current firm or business”, how will you know when you’ve achieved that success or respect?
    Instead, try specific terms. For example, “To hit targets X, Y and Z for my promotion to Partner or General Counsel” is specific. So is, “To generate a strong client following through initiating 10 new client relationships this year” or “To set aside five hours per week for professional development”.
  3. Make your goals attainable and within your controlImportantly, your goals should also be attainable and within your control. For example, a goal to become a partner in 2018 without any business case is unlikely to be attainable. By contrast, aiming to create a strong business case for partnership by generating a substantial client following is attainable – and would be more likely to create a successful year.
    Think about your ideal scenario, and then break this down to what is within your own control. This will create a goal that is achievable by December 2018.
  4. Challenge and push yourselfEqually, making your goals attainable doesn’t mean making them so easy you have ticked everything off your list by March. Your career goals for 2018 must challenge you, and take you out of your comfort zone. The actions you’ll need to take to achieve these big goals will not be easy. You will shed blood and tears for them, and it will be worth it.
  5. Create your roadmap“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” —Pablo Picasso
    Setting out a practical plan over three months, six months, nine months and twelve months can be incredibly helpful to ensure you are hitting your target over the year. Adding this plan into your Outlook calendar, broken down by quarter, will help to embed this plan into your workload rather than being additional ‘career goal’ tasks which are easier to ignore when your workload is busy.
    If you go through the year and realise one of your steps isn’t working after concerted effort, change tack. Think of another way to achieve your goal and don’t waste any more time. Speak to people, read the latest industry insights, debrief with your Partner or senior and then move on.
  6. Get started todayThis part sounds the simplest, but is often the hardest. Reaching your goal is not meant to be easy. Your ambition should take you out of your comfort zone. It will be hard in the beginning, but worth it in the end. So, go and start, right this minute.


To get an idea of how Henley Reid helps legal professionals work with their goals, visit our Professionals page

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