Usually financiers use terms like “leverage” or “opportunity cost.” But, law firm professionals should also insert these two terms into their legal lexicon. Next time your boss compliments your work product, you’ll realize why.
The first, leverage, is defined by the financial dictionary as, “When borrowed capital is used to enlarge the potential return of an investment.”
The field of law is not generally discussing financial instruments, such as futures, margins, and options, used to create financial leverage. So, what are lawyers leveraging?
In the legal world, a more appropriate and applicable explanation of the same term is, “financial leverage enables a company to increase value for its shareholders.”
Leverage leads to more money, financially. Or, intrinsically, leverage leads to more opportunity. Now that’s an idea every professional can get behind.
The second term, opportunity costs, is defined by the financial dictionary as “Whereby the cost of a decision is measured against the likely decision’s alternative. It is a way of working out the cost of missing out on the next best alternative.”
This phrase could summarily be described by the cliché, “It’s now or never.”
Within a law firm, one classic opportunity that professionals fail to leverage and thus experience at a cost to all future, similar opportunities, is properly accepting a compliment from a boss or supervisor.
In America, cultural stigma often prevents a person from accepting, wholeheartedly, a compliment. Especially in a professional environment, individuals are afraid of seeming overly confident or arrogant by agreeing with third-party praise.
However, when it comes to a job well done, law firm professionals should not shirk the chance to show off. After all, superior work product is typically rewarded with year-end bonuses, a salary raise, or even a promotion.
So, the next time a senior attorney or managing partner gives you positive feedback on an assignment, accept it gracefully and—like a financier—aggressively. Here’s how:
1. Don’t downplay your accomplishment
When a superior pats you on the back and says “well done,” it seems intuitive to respond, “thank you!” Not so. Most people will give a shy retort, such as “Well, it was really a team effort,” or “It wasn’t that difficult, I didn’t really do much…”
An air of confidence in your work will actually impress your superior more than humility. Start with a simple “thank you.” But, don’t forget to re-emphasize the long nights and unique expertise required to accomplish said task.
For example, “Thank you, sir. I think last week’s late nights proofreading the documents really paid off for the client. I’m happy that they were so please with the work.”
Be as specific as possible. That way, your boss is fully aware of the effort you put in.
2. Return the compliment
If you have more time, then use it to return the compliment. Talk about how well the team worked together, or how a particular senior attorney or partner inspired your work ethic.
Don’t single out another associate, when possible. Instead, highlight activities or group effort that will reflect positively back on you. Think of each compliment as a potential elevator pitch for new job or a better position.
3. Get it in writing
If this exchange occurred in passing in the office hallway, send a second “thank you” over e-mail. Of course, don’t over-sell yourself. Make the communication short and sweet.
Hopefully your superior will repeat the praise in writing, and, in the ideal situation, they will CC another managing partner. Either way, you can compile these valuable comments for your next evaluation.
Finally, think about leveraging this opportunity further by asking for more work responsibilities or assignments. Show initiative while the cards are in your favor, and you are in the favor of your firm.
When it comes to boosting your career, it doesn’t take a financial expert to understand which moments to leverage, and the cost of a lost opportunity to do so.