On Friday April 9th 1999, Leona Vogt, a highly regarded legal career consultant in the Boston area, shared with us her thoughts on "making the most of your law firm experience". Her presentation was packed with insightful career advice for associates who are planning to stay as well as associates who are planning to leave their firms.
Leona Vogt began her discussion by identifying two problems with the methods that law firms use to evaluate associates. First she noted that in many large firms, associates are given no formal feedback until months after they join the firm. Second, she noted that it is difficult to find objective performance measures in the practice of law.
Don’t Assume that No News is Good News
Leona noted that most associates err in assuming that no news is good news. She advised the audience that it is important to get informal feedback early and often from partners or senior associates (e.g. after a transaction has been completed). Leona also gave warning about the proper way to behave if a partner is legitimately dissatisfied with the associate's performance. She commented that it is a bad strategy to avoid a partner after doing an assignment improperly. She suggested that the better approach is to acknowledge the mistake and actively try to get more work from that partner. In her view, the last memory is the memory that will stick with the partner (i.e. it doesn’t matter if the 4 previous memos were flawless). So it is important to fix the "damage".