“G” is for…What are your “Goals”?

I recently spoke about goal-setting with a group of career-minded lawyers at the Ontario Bar Association. While 100% of the group said planning ahead was valuable, only 37% of them had a career plan. When the 63% were asked why they didn’t have a plan, 12.5% said they didn’t have a goal.

Here are some goals you might want to consider, plus techniques to set them up for success…

Interviewing Goals

If you are interviewing for a job, consider what your goals are other than receiving a job offer. I ask my clients before role play preparation, “on what criteria do you want me to asses you?” Responses range from,

“giving better answers to behavioural-type questions”,
“telling more stories”,
“stop talking too much.”
Convert these smaller tasks into goals. This will reduce the stress of thinking you need to land the job and focus on your actual performance. Incidentally, that is the only thing you can control: your performance.

Job Search Goals

If you are articling, I implore you to start thinking now about what you liked and what you were really good at. Take stock of what you’ve learned, and think about how you can build on those experiences. The only way to find work going forward is to have a sense of what you want to do.

It doesn’t have to be a title like “commercial litigator.” Many of my clients early on in their careers don’t necessarily know what practice area they want to end up in. However with some prodding, they do know what skills they want to build or what interests them.

At a recent event, I met a law student who was frustrated by the encouragement to go after her dreams when she didn’t even know how to articulate them. When I asked what she likes about law school, the student described coming up with alternative ways of analyzing legislation and challenging the very basis of statutory interpretation principles. All she needed to hear was that law reform could be an area to explore. She had never heard of the Law Commission of Ontario before and so she was excited to finally land on some concrete ideas.

Business Goals

If you just completed your associate evaluation, then you have lots of material to work with. What were you told that needs improvement? What did you commit to doing for the remainder of the year?

Here are a few of the steps I shared with the OBA group that can help you set up any goal for success:

Step 1: Know Your Values

Thinking before we act improves our efficiency, so schedule time in your calendar to reflect on your goal. Go some place that makes you happy: coffee shop, hotel lobby bar. The point is, it’s unlikely your office desk!

Motivation is key in any goal-setting process. Whether a goal is imposed on you or not, you will want to ask yourself questions that elicit your values:

“Why is this goal important to me”?
“How will this goal bring out the best of me”?

Step 2: Understand Your Aspirations

Now I want you to reflect on your aspirations. Ask yourself:

“What do I really want to accomplish with this goal”?
“What will it look like once I achieve it”?

Step 3: Foresee Challenges

Finally, I want you to anticipate challenges so that you can incorporate them in your goal crafting. Ask yourself:

“What must I overcome in meeting this goal”?
“What strengths can I leverage to overcome these challenges”?

Step 4: Narrow and Write Down Your Goal

Now that you have spent some time reflecting on your VAC (values, aspirations, challenges), you will need to narrow down your goal. Whatever insight you’ve gained from thinking about your goal, adjust your goal accordingly.

What gets written down, likely gets done! I like goals that are written in the form of a (quest)ion. Think legal memo writing. Legal issues are written in question form, and the more descriptive they are, the more effective the research.


Lawyer Coach Paulette works with lawyers and law students on crafting goals that align with their values and strengths. If you’d like to learn more, please visit www.21stcenturylawyer.ca


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