The Road Not Taken: Management Skills Part 2 (I want to hold your hand)

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Last week I wrote about the reality of work for many lawyers. The profession as a whole takes no awards as a stimulating and stable work environment, and although the recession has brought some correction to the market, there will always be more lawyers right behind you lining up to be thrown away. in the meat grinder called “a job”. The unspoken message is that if you voice your displeasure, there’s always someone younger and hungrier coming down the stairs after you.

There are two ways to look at this type of industrial culture. One view is that if you can survive what others have survived before you, you have somehow proven yourself to be tougher, stronger, and more worthy of the job you have. The other view is that lawyers don’t know how to manage their support team (including other lawyers) and don’t see the value in providing strong, competent leadership.

I think reality is a bit of both: ego and incompetence. The thing is, there are certain personality types that excel in a stable environment. There are others who feel that instability slaughters the herd of those who become complacent too easily. There are different ways to guard against premature complacency, but the trust that comes from a stable work environment can actually only be created by a stable work environment. With stability, many people can actually go the extra mile within themselves for the creativity, insight, and confidence to pursue clients. There is value in managing retention in a legal department or law firm, just as there is value in retention in other business organizations.

However, chances are you don’t have a good manager. Of course, the partner you work for can entrust you with good missions. Your partner may even say “good job” to you regularly. But is this really good management or is it rather benign negligence? Many young lawyers have not had a professional career before practicing law and therefore may not know what good management looks like to them. In other words, young professionals may not know what they need and therefore may not know what to expect or expect, let alone ask or demand.

So what should you be looking for? Ultimately, a good manager should value you as an individual contributor to the team, and their actions should reflect that overall position. Therefore, errors are not malicious efforts to ruin his life, but errors that reflect that you need more coaching on this issue. In addition, an investigation is necessary: ​​was the error due to ignorance or overwork? Are there any tools or tricks of the trade that can be shared to prevent this type of error from happening again?

Does your manager propel you forward on a daily or weekly basis? If so, does this translate into a support structure for your career? Your manager, if you are lucky enough to have a good one, can help you see where you can go and how to get there. Your manager can help you identify areas where you can grow and develop in a way that not only benefits you, but the organization as well.

I know my audience here, and I’m sure many of you are thinking, “If someone needs an adult to hold their hand for their career, they don’t deserve the job they have.” This misses the point. We all have blind spots. We all have room to grow. Often these blind spots and areas of growth coincide, preventing us as individuals, with limited perspective, from seeing where we can go and how to get there. A good manager can create a work environment stable enough that people are likely to reveal their weaknesses and improve upon them.

Unfortunately, not everyone gets a manager like that from the start. Even more unfortunately, most lawyers never have a manager like that. What happens when the harsh reality is that if you need someone to hold your hand, you won’t last long in the job you have? This is when you need to figure out how to be your own best manager.


Celeste Harrison Forst has practiced in small and medium-sized businesses and now works in-house at a large manufacturing and technology company where she gets hugs from her colleagues daily. You can reach Celeste directly at [email protected]

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