Visibility greatly impacts career success. Being visible means not only being seen but also being included, recognized, and valued by others. Now that most lawyers are working remotely and can’t rely on developing relationships via organic, in-person interactions, you must be more creative and intentional about making your presence known.
Doing good work is a given; the more people know you, and are aware of your projects and results, the better the chances of your name being suggested when opportunities for interesting work or career moves arise. You must go above and beyond to remind people that you exist and are a valuable member of the team. It’s easy to get stuck in your work-from-home bubble and fall off the radar, so it’s vitally important to communicate proactively.
Don't fade into the background when it comes to group meetings and conversations. If there’s an issue where you think you can contribute, speak up. But make sure what you’re sharing is meaningful; don’t talk just for the sake of hearing your own voice. Additionally, leave your camera on during video meetings so others can put your name and voice with a face plus receive fuller communication via your body language and facial expressions.
Coordinate regular video meeting times to touch base with team members and supervisors. You can use the time for brainstorming, as a working session, or simply to reconnect and get on the same page. Daily, stay connected to teammates and contribute to conversations on your firm’s various internal communications channels throughout the day.
Create a regular "status update" memo, which helps people throughout the firm keep track of your progress and performance. Be sensitive to your firm's organizational structure, however. Don't copy the managing partner on your status reports, for example, if your practice group leader oversees work assignments. This shouldn’t just be a laundry list of tasks. Rather, frame it in terms of accomplishments and results. Remember to include the benefits of your work. Make sure your practice group leader and supervising partner get copies of any successes, such as favorable rulings, client thank you notes, and the like.
There is a fine line between visibility and self-promotion. Take credit for your work, but don't take away from others. Share the glory. Explicitly acknowledge your team for their good work during meetings, in emails, and over chat. In return, they will be more willing to shine the spotlight on you.
Don't think that communicating via email replaces the need to talk with people directly either by phone or video chat. Take advantage of every legitimate opportunity to have “face” time with your supervising attorneys and other decision-makers in the firm. Personally connecting with others in today's highly automated and technological environment will help differentiate you from the crowd.
One of the silver linings of everyone working remotely is that geographical barriers are blurred. It no longer matters which of a firm’s far-flung offices is the “home” of any given attorney. Do your best to work on matters and interact with lawyers in other locations. Seize the opportunity to get to know colleagues not only on your team but also in other practice groups, and as many of the group leaders and managing partners as possible—regardless of their location.
Make it a point to participate on firm committees and attend firm events, town halls, team meetings and the like, and partner with people you don't already know, so you can build your internal network. Once you make a connection with someone new, stay in touch with them and keep them posted on your work. Create meaningful relationships by showing curiosity, learning about them and their work, and demonstrating your support for their goals.
Ask questions, ask for feedback, and ask for help when you need it. This makes you appear genuinely interested in your job and the quality of your work. Asking for help also boosts the esteem of the person you approach, as you rely on their knowledge. Friendships, mentorships, and partnerships can develop this way.
Another possibility is to create an intra-firm working group based on a common interest. For instance, you could set up a group for people who are at the same stage in their career or gather colleagues who want to learn a specific practice or skill. This will demonstrate your leadership ability and help you build even more new connections.
Relationships matter. Set a goal to connect with a few colleagues each week. These should be “soft touches,” such as asking how they’re doing, how you can support them, or sending them a helpful resource. Be proactive about creating social moments. In addition to discussing work topics, spend a few minutes in meetings engaged in informal conversation. Invite a colleague to grab a virtual coffee or lunch, or ping people on chat asking for television/movie, book, or recipe recommendations. Make yourself available for impromptu meetings and chats. Just don’t go overboard. This isn’t about having poor personal boundaries; rather, it’s about being a whole person and actively engaged.
Talking to others about their work, or even their personal lives, may seem like it takes time away from your own projects, but that small investment of time pays you back in support and camaraderie. Word of mouth is incredibly powerful, and you want to be known as an upbeat and supportive person. Plus, by networking in this one-on-one fashion, you create lasting friendships, and will have advocates throughout and at all levels of the organization.
Those who sit quietly doing only what’s expected (or less) fade into the woodwork, while those who step forward and participate actively create a much more robust personal presence. Volunteering underscores your value to the firm, positively promotes your personal "brand," and creates your visible and long-lasting reputation as a loyal and reliable professional.
Display a willingness to pitch in with even the least attractive tasks or projects to help the group achieve its collective goals. When you “take one for the team,” others notice and appreciate it. Plus, the most burdensome endeavors usually also are the most high-profile. In fact, don’t hesitate to ask for high impact projects. Choose those that align with your strengths yet allow you to stretch and grow. Ask, also, if there are meetings others would like you to sit in on or take over or if you can assist with the preparation of an article or presentation. This can be a great opportunity to raise your profile and gain exposure to powerful partners or projects that you wouldn’t have access to otherwise. Plus, you might be doing a favor by taking work off a busy colleague’s plate.
Participating in firm-sanctioned charity events is another great strategy for raising your profile while also contributing to a worthwhile cause. Do something for your firm's chosen nonprofit or ask your firm to sponsor you to take part in a charity race or other fundraising event. It’s even better if you work alongside others from your firm (especially higher-ups) on these projects.
Find your niche
Play on your strengths and interests to create a niche for yourself as an expert or go-to-person for a specific skill or discrete practice. It could be in an emerging practice sub-specialty or client industry sector, a specific skillset needed in your practice, or tackling a problem for which others haven’t yet found a solution. When you identify your niche and start contributing, colleagues will begin to recognize your value and approach you for support or advice.
You can raise your profile further by sharing what you know more broadly within the firm. Volunteer for assignments where your specialty could be valuable, write a regular blog for your firm’s intranet, or produce articles for client alerts and newsletters. You also could offer in-house training, host a discussion within the firm, or speak at client-facing events and webinars. Always be on the lookout for opportunities to present your work outside the firm, as well. If you present your expertise to bar association, community, or other professional organizations, let the firm know by disseminating your articles or presentation notices to all appropriate colleagues and senior attorneys in your firm.
Having a strong personal brand in the broader legal community is essential for raising your visibility within your firm, as well. Strong community- and profession-wide networks enhance access to information, opportunities, events, and valuable connections which might come in handy when someone in your firm needs help that members of your outside network can provide. In addition to participating in outside organizations, develop a strong online identity. For most lawyers, this means optimizing your LinkedIn profile and actively using the platform by connecting with other professionals, joining online groups, posting relevant content, and reading and commenting on posts of the latest articles and updates.
Don’t be invisible! Whether working in person and, especially if working remotely, you can’t be noticed if you don’t put yourself out there. Despite your hard work and top-notch performance, if key people aren't aware of you, you'll likely miss out on opportunities to get ahead. It's not only what you know that matters; it's who you know, too. But even more important is who knows you.