The Career Ladder vs. Career Lattice

A fundamental shift has taken place in corporate America. The Career Ladder is no longer the path to career advancement. The rungs are broken or are no longer working efficiently. The Career Lattice has taken its place. And here’s why looking through the lens of a lattice will yield many more career options than the old ladder.

The Career Lattice Will:

  • Provide more career options by looking at career opportunities that may be a step sideways, right or left, a step up and sometimes taking a step backwards to advance your legal career.
  • Not pigeon hole you into just one career trajectory but rather provide a series of career options.
  • Allow you to define the long term objective and then set forth the plan to achieve the skills and competencies through a series of assignments.
  • Provide career management as a fluid process rather than a rigid decision making engagement.

Here’s How It Works:

  • Career Inventory: If you have defined a long term career objective and if you have assessed which skills and competencies you do have, these will help to market you. You can then identify which competencies you need to move toward your career objective which could be the basis for defining or articulating your next career assignment or opportunity. If you know what your career goal is and you have identified what you need, you now have a plan to move forward.
  • Critical Observation: If you have defined what you are looking for, you are managing your career plan and not letting the market define your career direction.
  • Think about career moves or changes not just in terms of advancement or titles but what competencies and experience you will gain. How does the assignment or opportunity contribute to your body of work, your overall career path? Does it add to or detract from the body of work?
  • We have seen lawyers who strategically have taken a step sideways and in some cases have taken a step back to advance their careers or to transition from one practice area to another.

Potential Pitfalls:

  • The lattice has many more options and with options come choices. Confusion may occur with the number and type of options you are considering. If you are unsure about whether the opportunity is a viable one for you, ask yourself the following questions:

Can I articulate why or how this assimilates into my long term objective?

How will this “read” on my resume?

What are the trends impacting this opportunity? For example, are there industries or professional trends affecting this opportunity?

Is this opportunity an asset or liability when I make my next career move? Will I have experiences and accomplishments to speak about?


  • Define your profession. This may sound obvious but let’s look at Compliance by way of example. Compliance could both be a profession and a practice area. If you see yourself as lawyer with a practice in compliance you may position yourself differently than a Compliance professional who is practicing as lawyer.
  • Once you have defined your profession and your career objective, then you can begin to explore different organizations or ways to achieve your objective. For example, are there opportunities within your organization to secure the identified competencies? What about Board opportunities possibly within your professional associations?

Looking at the Career Lattice will give the opportunity to identify more career options and possibilities for advancing your career within your existing organization, through possible external volunteer opportunities and if necessary by considering external opportunities as well.

Feel free to contact us directly at PLSG: Contact Us