A person with great dreams can achieve great things.
Dr. Bob Rotella, golf psychologist

  1. Align Purpose Strategy and Core Values: Make sure there is an alignment of leadership, purpose, strategy, core values, culture, and systems that includes goal setting.  If the leadership does not support goal setting, it is not part of the strategy.
  2. Set an Example: Set an example and show lawyers how to meet the firm’s and their own expectations.  That means firm leaders must have their own goals and be willing to share them with others.  Keep in mind:  If you don’t value career development at your firm, your brightest talent will move to a law firm that does.
  3. Mentoring-Establish Expectations and Train Mentors: Clearly articulate what is expected of mentors and why.  Train the mentors and then hold mentors accountable.  Mentors should help associates set goals, help them prepare a plan and then meet with them regularly to go over how they are doing.  For accountability, include mentoring in evaluating bonuses and compensation for partners.
  4. Communicate Importance of Attorney Development: If the firm values associate development and associate investment in their careers, communicate that message clearly and then reflect it in associate bonuses and feedback.  If the firm does not value it, persuade associates they are at best limiting their career by not investing non-billable time in themselves.
  5. Show Value of Setting Goals: Help associates see the value of setting goals and then train them how to set them.  Be able to convey that goals are a means to career success and satisfaction. I explain to associates that I selfishly set goals because I know I am responsible for my career happiness and success.  Goals help me prioritize what is important to me and help me focus on my personal and career priorities.  Goals also give me a sense of freedom and independence, especially as I develop my own clients.  I also explain that a great deal of the value is actually the process of setting goals and thinking about the future.  Consider the words of the very goal-oriented Ben Stein, who is an actor, political speechwriter, law professor, economist, author and columnist:  “The indispensable first step to getting the things you want out of life is this:  Decide what you want.”
  6. Conduct Workshops on Career Development Topics: Conduct workshops for associates on goal setting and career planning as part of orientation and then a second workshop at the beginning of their fourth year.  Those who have reached their goals will need to set new ones; those who have not may need to change their action, strategy or both. If their goals have changed, they may need to chart a new course.  The formal workshops, in addition to private, ongoing mentoring, reinforces the firm-wide message that your commitment to your associates is long-term and embedded in firm culture.
  7. Have Mentors Reinforce Firm Goals: Have mentors find out from associates what is important to them and what they value.  It is the beginning step to setting goals.  Mentors can help reinforce firm goals and an associate’s role in achieving them.  It is also important for mentors to understand that goals reflect generational and societal change.  What motivates a mentor may have little meaning to an associate.  Pay attention to the differences and help associates form goals that match their values.
  8. Help New Lawyers Set Goals Based on What They Want to Learn: Convey to first and second year associates that their goals need to focus on what they want to learn and experience.  If the firm has a shadowing program the goals may include the shadowing they want to do.
  9. Have Associates Ask “Why Important?: When associates set goals, have them write a paragraph on why they want to achieve their goals and have them brainstorm all the things they need to do to achieve each of them.  Share with them strategies for reaching goals quickly.  Studies have shown enormous differences between the success of people who just thought about rather than wrote down their goals and between people who wrote down their goals once, yearly, monthly, weekly and daily.  Hint:  The more often you write down your goals, the faster you will reach them.
  10. Create Plan templates: Prepare different Personal Development and Performance Plan templates for the 1-3 year associates than the 4-7 year associates.  Their needs are different, and this should be reflected in the planning guidance you provide.

An average person with average talent, ambition and
education can outstrip the most brilliant genius in our
society if that person has clear, focused goals
Brian Tracy, whose bestselling titles include,
Hire and Keep the Best People