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Posted by: Elvira Cortez on Jan 3, 2020

As we begin the new year, we all contemplate resolutions to improve our personal health or well-being. Every year we promise to lose weight, improve our physical fitness, or simply keep better contact with friends. As we attempt to part the Red Sea of our responsibilities to achieve these goals, in about a month, the impending flood of our professional and familial responsibilities eventually wipes out our hopes for self-improvement.

This year, I challenge you to make a resolution focused on professional growth. As you know, women are substantially underrepresented in leadership positions in the legal profession and are paid less for the same work as men. In order to change these inequities, we need to “lean in” and take steps to improve outcomes for women. Therefore, I challenge you to commit to take your practice to the next level.

To achieve this goal your resolution should be concrete and tailored to your practice. You may wish to grow your book of business, obtain a promotion, open your own practice, or join the bench. The goal need not be achievable in one year; however, you should establish benchmarks that can be achieved throughout the year. For example, you may commit to obtain two potential client referrals each month or serve as second chair on a jury trial.

Next, you should create an action plan by listing the steps you will undertake to achieve those goals. If it is a promotion you seek, then plan how you will develop the skills necessary to apply and find an advocate to champion your achievements. In the private practice, create a plan on how to improve your recognition in your firm and in the community. Brainstorm how to best advocate for yourself. Obtain a leadership position in a local organization. Attend local events and concentrate on creating referral sources. Learn about opportunities to speak at seminars or write an article for a local periodical.

Do not just make a mental pledge to yourself, instead write it down or make a poster board (feel free to be creative). Writing down your professional goal and action plan provides you with a concrete reminder of your commitment to professional growth. It also serves as a tool to measure your progress throughout the year and an opportunity to recommit yourself to the task. By focusing on professional growth, we can begin to change the paradigm. Do you accept the challenge?

 -Article first published in LC News,January 2020

Elvira Cortez practices business and commercial litigation and employment defense at Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP and is the 2019-2020 president of Lawyers Club.


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