When I started out as a young family law attorney, I felt as if the world was spinning around me and I could barely hang on. It took years before I felt like I knew what I was doing, and the first few years felt like they were just about survival. I had a lot of insecurity about my legal knowledge and ability and so every year, sort of like a resolution, I would decide to tackle a certain challenge.
In the early years I had modest goals related to the practice of law. For example, I wanted to first chair a one-day hearing or figure out how to read financial statements. Later the goals became bigger. In 2015, the goal was to start my own firm. I called 2016 “the year of public speaking.” In 2018, I decided to write a book. In 2013 and 2017 I may have given myself a break to have kids, but probably not. Most likely I just can’t remember my goals from those years. Hopefully I met them!
My goals were all self-set. No one ever asked me my goals and no one ever held me accountable. Now that I have my own firm, I realize that verbalizing your goals or plans for the year to a supervisor or coworker helps with accountability. I recently conducted a yearly review with an attorney in my office; we revisited her goals from our 2018 review and discovered that she had forgotten some of them. We decided to focus on a few of the goals together and talked about them over the following weeks. Within two months she had completed her goals.
If you find your supervisor isn’t asking you about your goals, take it upon yourself to verbalize them to him or her. If your supervisor isn’t asking you what you need in terms of support to accomplish your goals, maybe you can simply ask. Do you want to attend a mediation training and need the funding? Do you want to increase your pro bono and need some time to do so? If you need something from your employer to be successful, it would benefit both of you if you communicated your goals and stated what you need to meet them.
I do think there is something to “manifesting” your goals and dreams, saying them out loud and putting them into the universe. We “manifest” a lot in my office. However, I also think it’s important to think intentionally about not only your goals but about the overall trajectory of your career and where you want it to go. My next blog post will be about developing a niche practice and differentiating yourself.
Jessica Markham is the owner of Markham Law Firm, a family law firm in Bethesda.