I have been at my current company for almost two years as a Contracts attorney, with the title Manager of Contracts. I earned my JD and passed the bar in 2010, and knocked around a few years as a Contracts Administrator, doing some litigation as a freelance, and served three years as Contracts Manager for a software company. I’m also a nontraditional attorney, in that I earned by JD when I was 40. I give this perspective as background to what I’m struggling with now.
Ultimately I’d like to be promoted given the circumstances in our department, but feel like I’m either (1 being overlooked; or 2) not being given honest feedback from my supervisor on what skills I am lacking to advance; or 3) I have the skills, just not confident enough or ‘attorney-like’ enough to command respect.
When I started, I was on a team of three attorneys, along my supervisor (also an attorney). The other two attorneys had been there longer, and were at a Director level. I was fine with my position as the greenest on the team. But since then, we’ve lost both of those team members, and we tried to hire one who was then fired for mysterious circumstances. Needless to say, my supervisor is never forthcoming about anything going on in our department. I’ve relied on rumors to understand the reasons behind this turnover. Honestly, the first firing made me nervous, since I was hoping I wasn’t going to make the same mistakes, whatever they were.
So after a year and a half, I became the ‘senior’ person on our team with enough experience now that I felt I could move up to a Director role, which was open given the recent turnover. I’m not presumptuous to think I can just jump into this role – I already do the very same work as a Director, meeting with various levels of our company’s management team, and with our customers to negotiate complex agreements. I also do a bit of my own administrative work to manage the contracts coming in, but it’s never been a job requirement. I do it because it needs to be done to organize our insane workload. This is usually the job of our administrators, but the one assigned to me is so new she is struggling as well.
My question has to do with how can I advance beyond this ‘manager’ role to the Director role – and am I my own enemy? When the second attorney left, I asked my supervisor my chances of advancement to that role and his response was so vague I don’t even think I can explain – something like “promotions are only in July” (it was March 2020) and “there’s a lot to learn here” to “I think you’re doing a fine job”. He’s not totally a bad ‘boss’ – even giving me an award for ‘making a difference’ which was a monetary boost as well.
So now our team is complete – two young male attorneys with less ‘company’ experience who are Directors and me as a ‘manager of contracts’. I also just found out that the other attorney, hired just in February, actually interviewed our newest hire, but I only met him on his first day. This made me so angry I am now writing this post.
What am I doing wrong – lots of education, years of corporate experience, but not enough confidence, skills, ‘ladder climbing savvy’, what is it? I like the money I’m earning but afraid every day that I’m not measuring up so will never advance or, at worst, my supervisor will make an excuse to let me go since I am ‘older’ and certainly not as ‘attorney-like’ as my new coworkers.
Struggling to push up that ceiling...