Look Before You Leap: Career Advice for Legal Technology Pros

Career advice to help legal technology professionals decide whether they should leave their jobs.As a recruitment firm, we’re big believers in making career moves that help you advance and achieve greater job satisfaction. We’ve also warned about the risks associated with taking a counteroffer. But there’s a third option, one that happens before either the job seeking or counteroffer stage—evaluating whether or not you should leave your law firm or legal technology department in the first place.

This is an important starting point—and one you shouldn’t race over. Before making the leap to leave your legal tech job, consider the following five areas of opportunity at your current place of employment.

1. Compensation: Can You Earn A Competitive Salary?

There are several publications that offer salary information for the legal industry. For example, the Association of Legal Administrators, the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA), and ESP Legal all publish free salary guides revealing average technology and litigation support compensation trends. Peruse these guides and see where you land. Are you being paid a competitive salary given the size and location of your firm, the other benefits (such as health insurance) provided to you, and your years of experience in the industry?

If you feel you are being underpaid, can you meet with your manager and share your concern? Without mounting a case against anyone or threatening to leave, present the market information and salary statistics you’ve discovered to support your claim that your wages fall below average. Then, give you firm a chance to consider and respond. Many firms will try to adjust to bring you in line with market standards—but you may have to wait until your next review.

2. Career Growth: Can You Advance and Reach Your Goals?

Talk with your manager and ask what opportunities your firm has for advancement—and what steps you can take to ensure you’re on the right track for long-term growth. Your desire to move up the ladder should go hand in hand with your desire to learn, so during this conversation, ask your supervisor for ongoing guidance as a mentor and find out what other training and educational benefits your firm provides. Educational reimbursement, for example, could help you earn your college degree or MBA or even a certain technical certification. All of these actions will enhance your skill growth and make you a better internal candidate to promote.

Sometimes, there are no avenues for upward mobility within your department and you need to look outside of your organization. But even then, one of the hardest career moves to make is to get hired as a manager without any management experience. So again, look to your current employer to gain further experience before you try making a leap. Ask to lead a project or mentor the junior staff. Who knows—maybe showing that initiative will get you a promotion after all.

3. Work-Life Balance: Do You Have Job Flexibility and Healthy Work Boundaries?

The hours you put in—and are expected to put in—whether or not you take work home or are always “on call,” your commute, and your ability to work remotely or flex your time are all important considerations when it comes to long-term job satisfaction. Some things—like your commute—may not be adjustable . . . but things like your ability to work remotely certainly could be.

Talk with your firm about your schedule and see if you can realign some of your tasks and/or working arrangements to better suit your at-home needs. Start small—for example, delegating one project or beginning to work remotely on a trial basis once a week and extending that to two or three days a week over time if the arrangement is serving the best interests of both you and your firm.

4. Benefits: Do the Perks Round Out Your Employment Package?

Sometimes a firm can’t give you a salary increase but can give you a bigger bonus or increase your paid vacation time as an incentive. In addition to flexible work arrangements, medical benefits, and education reimbursement (all of which we’ve already mentioned), profit sharing, stock options, PTO, 401(k) plans, HSAs, childcare assistance, pet insurance, student loan forgiveness, and other smaller in-office perks are part of the “package” your firm has to offer, and they should be considered as a collective whole along with your salary when assessing the fairness of your compensation plan.

Talk with your manager or HR representative to see what options you might have. And, if you are actively looking for new opportunities, carefully evaluate how changes to these benefits could affect your overall take-home pay.

5. Leadership: Do You Respect and Get Along with the People In Charge?

If you love your job but hate your boss, you already know you’re in a difficult position. Statistics have shown that 75% of turnover can be influenced by managers. We recommend having a heart-to-heart with your boss before reporting any dissatisfactory behavior to HR or higher and also before making a career change. Your boss may not know how you and others feel and may be open to changing the behavior and your interactions in a way that better suits your work style. Don’t you always appreciate when someone comes to you to try to work out a problem instead of going behind your back? Who knows—when your boss sees you as a straight shooter and someone who is trustworthy, your relationship may improve more than you could have ever imagined!

If, however, your boss won’t hear you out, doesn’t change the behavior, and is creating a negative working environment for you and others—it’s time to seek a new opportunity. You can go to HR, but they will likely already be aware of the situation, and your conversation may not result in a change. What’s worse, HR will need to inform your boss of your report, which could make your life even more miserable. Sometimes, it’s not a matter of avoiding the leap but knowing when the time is right to make it.

 

There’s not always a way to advance your career and increase your financial earnings without exploring new job opportunities. If you’ve thought through these five areas and have come to that conclusion, let us know—we’re always here to help you find your best legal technology fit. But if you see untapped areas of opportunity where you’re currently working, we hope you will take some steps to improve your job situation and grow where you’re already planted.

The key to taking a leap and landing on your feet is intentionality. Whatever you decide, move forward with confidence until you reach your full potential.

Ready to take the leap? Our ESP Legal technical recruiters will help you speed up the process and land somewhere that aligns with your needs in all of these areas.

Get in Touch with a Recruiter

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How to Make a Great Career Move in a Hot Legal Tech Job Market

Make the right legal tech career moveGreat news for IT pros working in the legal industry: you’re more in demand than ever before. An estimated 75% of companies are planning to increase the number of full-time IT employees on their teams in 2019. And one recent survey revealed more than 50% of firms and legal departments plan to increase their investment in technology in the coming years.

The hot legal tech job market not only means increased job security and higher pay—it also means now is the ideal time to make a move that advances your career. The following five steps will help you leverage your skills and expertise to land your next great fit.

Step 1: Develop a Strategy

Despite the hot job market, when seeking a new opportunity, you still need to do the due diligence required of any job search. Start with an honest assessment of your IT skills: evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and your favorite and least favorite facets of your current role. Then consider how you would like to advance and grow professionally.

Once you’ve honed in on what you’d like to do, consider where you’d like to be doing it. Conduct research to get a sense of the firms you might work for and their reputation in the legal industry. Determine the kind of workplace culture you’re looking for, and see if any of the firms you researched align with your ideal.

Finally, address the how of your job search. Do you have any professional connections at the firms that most pique your interest? Would you prefer to work with an industry expert recruiter who can help you leverage the market and provide the inside scoop on companies and managers? Being intentional about how you plan to take action will help you land an interview faster and propel you toward step 2.

Step 2: Present Yourself Professionally

This step is about highlighting your skills and interest level to your prospective employer and positioning yourself for success down the road during step 5 (hint: it’s all about negotiating).

Here are a few specific tips to help you put your best foot forward from the start to the finish of your job search:

  • Ensure your resume is error free and formatted professionally.
  • Update your technical resume’s content, highlighting any skills that align with the job description requirements listed for the position you are applying for. (Yes, this means you have to tweak your resume each and every time you apply for a new gig).
  • Review and update any virtual professional resources, including your LinkedIn profile and any digital portfolios. And don’t forget to do a quick scan of your personal social media accounts to ensure there isn’t any less-than-professional content to be found!
  • Add additional specific, applicable details about your unique qualifications in your cover letter (which, like your resume, should be error free and formatted professionally). Answer the question: Why are you a good fit for this opportunity, and why do you want to work for this firm?
  • Dress up for your interview (even a video interview) whether or not the firm has a casual dress code. Make sure everything about your appearance is in line with the industry you are working in.

These small but significant choices can make a huge impact on a prospective employer. Plus, when you present yourself professionally, you increase your chances of being heard and taken seriously. Which brings you to . . .

Step 3: Make a Lasting First Impression

Even though your skills are in-demand, you shouldn’t approach your interview with the expectation of being wooed by the law firm. During your conversation, focus on the firm’s needs and how you can assist them—not your needs. You will get a chance to address your needs later in the process.

Show the firm you are informed and prepared by asking thoughtful questions inspired by your research (step 1). But try to keep a 50–50 balance between talking and listening. Be aware of your body language, and show your interviewer that you are interested and engaged by maintaining eye contact.

Come prepared with upbeat, articulate responses to a handful of potential interview questions. ESP Legal’s interviewing tips for job seekers address the three biggest ones: “Tell me about a time when . . .,” “Tell me about yourself,” and “What is your greatest weakness?” Read up to learn what key information your interviewer may be trying to uncover by asking one of these questions, and then spend some time crafting your responses.

When you put in the work and come to your interview prepared, you’ll leave feeling confident. But there’s still one more step for you to take before receiving an offer. 

Step 4: Follow Up

Send a professional follow up email or handwritten note. This is a very important step and should not be overlooked as an empty formality or outdated courtesy.

Your follow-up is an opportunity for you to show you were paying attention by touching on some of the topics discussed in the interview. It’s also a final opportunity for you to remind the firm of your strengths and promote additional qualifications that you may have forgotten to mention during the interview.

Keep the tone of your note positive and professional, and maintain that positivity and professionalism even if you need to wait a while for a response. Remember, you may have been their first—and hopefully best—interview. Filling a role takes time. 

Step 5: Negotiate

If you’ve shined during steps 1–4, chances are you’ll soon be presented with an offer. But you haven’t reached the finish line of the job search process just yet. This is the step where the opportunities afforded to you by the hot job market really come into play.

A quick disclaimer: negotiation is not about upping your financial requirements once you’ve won a firm over. Be honest and up-front with your compensatory expectations prior to the interview so there are no surprises. The only exception to this rule happens when unplanned circumstances create variance, i.e. you just got a raise that was unexpected in your current job or received a competitive offer from another firm.

That said, sometimes a firm will come in below the target salary you presented, and when that happens, you should discuss and consider the other benefits and financial incentives being offered that could offset the difference. These may include perks such as profit sharing, 401(k) matching, a great medical plan, a flexible and/or remote working schedule, and greater vacation allowances and/or PTO.

Finally, keep in mind that sometimes making a career move isn’t about money. Sometimes you’ll move because you’re looking for a different company culture or looking to make a switch to a different tech area of focus. In these cases, be honest with yourself about your decision. Landing an opportunity that offers you the career potential you’re seeking at a great company is often worth a small trade-off financially.

 

In a hot job market, you don’t need to stress about landing a gig simply to pay the bills. You have the freedom to focus on your long-term career goals and make moves to help you achieve them. The only thing standing in your way is you. Get started today, and happy hunting!

If you’d like to streamline your search and receive additional support, our ESP Legal technical recruiters are always here to help:

Get in Touch with a Recruiter

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ESP Legal Releases 2019 Salary Guide

ESP Legal 2019 Technology and Litigation Salary GuideOur 2019 salary guides present data gathered and analyzed from a wide range of law firms and includes salaries from ESP Legal’s recent placements as well as national and local research.

A Hot Job Market for Tech Staff at Law Firms

In 2018, we reported that 70% of CIOs planned to increase their technology workforce. This year that number has gone up even further—with a projected 75% of companies planning to increase the number of full-time IT employees on their teams, according to the Society for Information Management’s 2019 IT Trends Study. In the legal marketplace specifically, we’ve seen an increase in demand for technology staff, which we anticipate will continue to grow. Help desk, desktop support, security engineer and system and network engineer positions remain in-demand amidst growing security concerns for law firms.

With this high demand has come increased compensation: those holding technology positions at law firms received salary increases of minimally 2% across the board, with application programmers seeing the biggest increase at 10%. Other hot job titles in 2018 included director of KM, CIO/CTO and IT manager.

Work-Life Balance and Benefits Are More Important Than Ever

Candidates continue to express higher interest in better work-life balance, including having the option to work remotely at least part time. Additionally, opportunities for growth including paid trainings and clearly defined career paths remain important. To attract and retain top talent you may need to focus on adding to your offerings or highlighting those you have in the recruitment and interview process—particularly if you’re unable to compete financially with larger firms.

 

With over twenty-three years of legal staffing expertise, ESP Legal continues to monitor and analyze hiring trends, including compensation and benefits in this rapidly changing economy in order to best serve you.

View Legal Technology and Litigation/eDiscovery Salary Guide

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