8 Strategies for Climbing the Law Firm Leadership Ladder


Last night, I plumb ran out of sleep. Here I was, snoozing away, not particularly dreaming about anything, when I woke right up. I found myself worrying about a legal professional who had come to me to find ways to get promoted in her firm. 

I went over our conversation. She was at her firm 14 years and hadn’t had a raise in several years. Other professionals were being brought in at a higher salary than she was getting. To compound the problem, she wanted to move into a higher position but nothing seemed to be happening. A key part of her story was that she believed she was doing all the right things: working hard, being a great team player, offering up quality work but was unable to get the attention of her supervisors. What was wrong?

I mapped out a plan for her when I realized she was making the biggest, most common mistake you can make when seeking a raise or promotion: Sitting and waiting for the firm to notice that you are doing a good job. Few promotions are given when the employee puts in long hours, is a good team player, is always on-hand for whoever needs them and turns in big billables. Why? Because putting in long hours, being a good team player, the always available person is exactly what is expected of you

To succeed, you must take charge of your own development. Here are some strategies to get you where you want to go in your career.


The more knowledge you have; skills you develop; strategies, tactics and techniques you have up your sleeve; the faster you can drive bigger amounts of dollars into your bank account. Succeeding has a nonnegotiable rule: Take 100% control of your learning and you can take 100% control of how valuable you are. The more valuable you are, the more choices you have about where you want to work, how you want to work and how much you get paid. There’s almost no downside.


One way to make your goals come to fruition is to use the SMART strategy:

  • Specific: Make your goal as precise as possible. If you aspire to be in the C-suite, look at CLE courses and webinars that might apply. Or look into getting certified with the  Certified Legal Manager (CLM)®
  • Measurable: Quantify your progress. Set benchmarks such as applying to 10 jobs that meet your requirements.
  • Attainable: Set goals that you can achieve. To confirm that your goal is attainable, think about the individual steps and consider how realistic they are.
  • Relevant: Any goals you set should genuinely matter. How important is this goal? Will you reach where you want to go?
  • Time-based: Give your goals deadlines. That way, you will have an easier time reaching the end result and motivating yourself.


Set career goals, as they give you a framework to achieve milestones and provide a path for you to actually do them. Lay out a step-by-step strategy with long and short-term goals. Short-term goals are stepping-stones to reach your long-term goal. For example: Your long-term goals may mean becoming a legal operations manager. Your short-term goal could be to take courses in accounting and technology.


Cultivate a strong professional and personal network that can give you guidance and advice…..

Published on Legal Management – The Magazine of ALA

Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing, a top nationwide staffing organization and has been in the field for over 20 years. She was recently interviewed by Fortune Magazine (www.estrinreport.comThe Wall Street Journal and  was named “One of the Top Women Leaders in Los Angeles.” She has written 10 booksabout legal careers, hundreds of articles and has been written up in publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Trib, Newsweek, Entrepreneur and others. Chere is a recipient of LAPA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Los Angeles/Century City Women of Achievement Award and a finalist for the Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year award. She gives numerous webinars including those for Lawline and LawPractice. Chere is a former administrator at an AmLaw 100 firm and Sr. Vice President in a $5 billion staffing company. She is happy to hear from you regarding anything at all. Reach out at: chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com.

Allen Brody, Esq., is a licensed California attorney and President of the Organization of Legal Professionals, an organization dedicated to providing online legal technology training to attorneys and legal professionals. He is also President of MediSums, an international medical records summarizing service for attorneys. A long-time Independent member of ALA, he has authored several articles and has been the guest speaker for many webinars.