20220804 How to Make Partner in a Law Firm: Top 10 Characteristics of Superstar Associates Who Make Partner
[00:00:00] Okay. So this is one of my favorite topics. It's actually a good topic for even more senior attorneys too, as well. But it's a good topic for people that wanna become owners and partners and so forth and their existing firm. And it's also a good topic for younger attorneys that may even just be starting out or getting ready to take the bar and that sort of thing, and take their first job or even summer associates. It's it's the characteristics that law firms are looking for and pretty much all types of law firms and the people that they advance.
I hope that you listen because there's just a lot of mistakes. I think that people will make in relation to this topic. And it can really screw up your career. It can screw up the career of senior associates. It can screw up the career junior associates and all sorts of things.
So I'm excited to talk about this today and go over this. After the presentation, I'll also be taking live questions and you can ask questions about this, or really anything related to anything that any questions you have related to your career or practicing law.
The [00:01:00] job of associate is really to gain the trust of the partners they're working for. You need to do that really before anything. They need to trust you to give you work. They need to trust that they'll be done correctly. They need to trust that they'll be done time. And the better you are the more work you typically get. So the best associates will typically be given more assignments. They'll work with the more important partners, the more important people the fewer errors you make, the fewer questions you ask, the easier you are to work with. The more work you'll typically be given. And then you'll actually get to work sometimes with just a few partners often that if you do very good work that can be your mentors and advance you. Also you can understand their work style and they can, they gimme understanding stuff between the two of you can be helpful.
Your ability to do good work your desire for work and so forth, demonstrates things will be done properly. And the better reputation you get for caring about your work, being reliable and doing good work the better off you are. And most people. That have that reputation work well with others and are considered good people to be around and so forth.
And [00:02:00] this is how it works in most firms. It's certainly the level that the higher up you go and the more competitive the firm is the more the stuff applies. And then just in all employers, law firms are no different. There's always a constant weeding out process.
And people that are weeded out will often cut corners in their work. They make question why certain things are being done or whether it really needs to be done. They'll be unhappy and always wanna express their unhappiness and talk about it, or whether it's to other associates or to partners or to HR.
They may make errors and they will do their approach with the lack of attention and care to detail. So I just wanna bring up and explain these things very briefly. And I talk about it a lot today, but the weeding out process is really to the people that are cutting corners.
There's a lot of people on every employer that will cut corners and not do things thoroughly. You just not proof things, not check things, and this is what is being weeded out. Questioning when you get an assignment, whether or not needs to be done instead of just following orders.
And [00:03:00] certainly you can suggest alternatives and so forth. But most of the time people really, aren't always that interested in hearing reasons that you believe something may not need to be done and so forth. And then acting unhappy is another big one.
If you're acting unhappy they can tell. You're talking to other associates in a way you're being quiet. When people walk into the room, you're looking unhappy those sorts of things and that regardless of the feel that way tho those are things that can hurt you in your career.
And then of course making errors and not approaching things with a lot of detail is also a big deal. And this kind of applies to every employer. Good employer will weed out people like this, but law firms are especially that way. And the other thing that a lot of people do that gets them in trouble is not seeking out work and not treating it as if it's the most important thing in the world with them. You have to remember that every assignment you get is probably very important to the partner working on it. It's probably even more important to the client. So this stuff gets noticed and it puts you at a lower level in the eyes of the people you're working [00:04:00] for.
And people that are top performing do the opposite of all these things. And that is really the main lesson. And I'll get into these 10 reasons now, but that's the way you want to think about it. Think about the people that are excited that do good work, that crosscheck things that don't make errors that are positive, that are uplifting and that's, those are all things that help the business.
The first thing is that people that are very good associates and and people who seek them out and so forth typically enjoy their jobs and are very enthusiastic and all types of attorneys that are good at their jobs, enjoy them.
Some of the best attorneys I've ever encountered in my career, partners, associates and things will say, I can't believe I get paid to do this there. There's things about the practice of law that are very appealing to them. Regardless of what it is, they've talked themselves into liking it.
But a lot of times they have a very strong idea of protecting people of protecting clients. Take great interest in coming up with solutions to problems, to getting the best deal the winning cases, whatever it is to figuring things out and [00:05:00] diving deep into them. And literally the people I've seen associates that are so excited about work, that they're, twitching and ready to go and wanna run and do research and things cuz they're excited when they get it.
And that's fun. Imagine if you're a partner and you're working with someone like that that when you give them work, they're very excited to do it. You think to yourself, I've got the right person on this. You, the partner feels better about themselves because they're giving work to someone that really wants to do it.
And and is making it easy for them. They're gonna want to give people more work that are enthusiasm, enthusiastic about the work they're gonna wanna advance them. Whereas if people are just do and negative and questioning and creating problems, not giving things done, they're not gonna wanna give them extra work.
And this sort of enthusiasm also impresses clients. I, if you are enthusiastic, when you meet people. That could be potential clients. And you tell 'em about solutions and different ways you think you could fix it and you're excited and you deliver it with and they sense that they're gonna wanna hire you for more things.
And this is [00:06:00] basic to being good in the law firm, but also being good at getting clients. You have to be very enthusiastic the there in every law firm too, by the way, especially in a lot of large law firms, there's always like these. And I don't say this in a negative way, but there, the people that are primarily service partners that will may have great qualifications, went to the best law schools and everything, but.
If you give them work, they're not necessarily that enthusiastic and they never get business because of it. And they may be very good technically, but they're just not enthusiastic. There's also associates like that. The people in all firms for the most part that are able to bring in business and get a lot of work and so forth are very enthusiastic.
And they're often not even the best attorneys, it's more often just flash than, but they're enthusiastic about the work and clients pick up on that and hire them because of that. And it's the same thing getting in advanced if you're enthusiastic and and you wanna exci you're excited about the work.
People are gonna give you more work and they want to, so it's imperative that, when you're in any law firm [00:07:00] that you're doing the type of work you enjoy. So you need to be in a practice area. You enjoy. Now, I'm not going to tell you what practice area you should be in.
But I will say and I will do a presentation on practice areas and the near future, but you typically have consumer facing practice areas, which are working with individuals and solving their problems. And then you have company facing practice areas, which are working with companies and solving companies problems.
And then you have transactional practice areas, and then you have non transactional practice areas and transactional practice areas are typically. Things like corporate or patent or real estate and non transactional or things like English or maybe family laws. One to some extent but people that are like, I'm sorry, people that like, things like English will enjoy things like litigation family law and other types of practice areas where, whether it's whether there's riding and things involved.
So you have to be in a practice area that you enjoy many times attorneys get into practice areas for whatever reason that they don't [00:08:00] enjoy. And if you are in a practice area, you don't enjoy and you really don't believe you'll ever enjoy it. Then you may be in the wrong practice area and you do something about it.
And it's not easy. It's not easy to switch practice areas. So you should really for the most part, try to be in a practice area that you really wanna do very early in your career, because once you get the experience becomes very difficult to switch you should also be working with people you enjoy.
And and that's another thing like you can you can work with all different types of people and there are people. All these different personality types. There's, I don't even know how to explain it, but in the people in middle market, like a a middle size town in Ohio are gonna be different than the people you're gonna meet in and downtown Los Angeles and a big firm.
It's just, you have to work with the type of people that you're comfortable with. And and you may not be comfortable with certain types of people, most people aren't. So it's important that you work with a group of people that you identify with and that, that are like you, and I don't know how to explain that.
One thing I will say that's [00:09:00] interesting about working with people you enjoy is that if you go to if I see someone. When I meet attorneys, I have a sense of, I can, in a market like Los Angeles right now, the firms very well, or even New York, to some extent you can often get a sense of the type of firm they work at based on their personalities and their their mannerisms and things, and the type of the per people there, because law firms screened for that.
And they have certain types of people. So you should work with the type of people you enjoy. There's again, there's nothing wrong with if, you know, if you're a certain type of person, if you're extremely social working an extremely social firm, if you're not working in a firm where every where it's the opposite, then you have to work with a type of people.
You enjoy, you have to work in an environment, you enjoy meaning the type of people you like. And there's an article that I wrote and I may have done a presentation on a call, find your tribe or something along those lines. And and I've written several articles about this firm, culture matters most and so forth, but if you're not working with people you, you like then.
You, you really could be unhappy and that's and the environment [00:10:00] that you're working in is going to have a lot to do with how happy you are with the people you're working in with and the practice share all that stuff is going to help you. But again you're never gonna to get everything right.
You could be in an environment where you really like the people and the environment, but you don't like your practice area and maybe that's okay. But the point is if you're not having fun you're not gonna do well. And and this is very important for everyone to understand if you're not having fun, you will not do well.
You have to love what you're doing and really like it. I am love my job. I don't know why, but it's natural fit for me. I knew it the first time I got in, was exposed to this profession. And, but I also knew I didn't wanna practice law forever. I knew it. The second I was exposed to that profession too, so there's nothing wrong with that.
But but the thing is that, every talented business person is typically very interested in what they're doing. Some people that have long term success every musician is very interested in being a musician. Every actor is very interested in being an actor and others most people got where they are by not [00:11:00] enjoying the work that they do.
I remember that and this is maybe not a great story, but years ago, I was exposed to this acting teacher that I met through and it was a well known acting teacher. And we were at a party after I don't know, three or four day class or something.
And there were someone that came that was playing the guitar and and everybody in the acting class, which was like, I dunno 30 people were sitting around listening to this guitar player play music and sing until I don't know, from, 10:00 PM to 1:00 AM or something.
And, I started listening to this at 10:00 PM and I was bored by 10 15 and I left. And he said, I can't believe that you left. If you're a performer, you have to be interested and support other performers and be very interested in so forth.
Now, I don't know if that's true, but his point was is that if you're really interested in something you're interested in it and you and this is the difference and you like it, and you wanna and I was not necessarily enjoying watching this person play the guitar for hours and everybody else was.
And so the point is [00:12:00] that, and I don't know that is that relevant to what I'm saying, but you need to enjoy what you're doing. And it's very important. You're not gonna get to the top of your profession. Unless you like it the hardest in every firm the people that get ahead are typically the hardest working that are excited about what they're doing and they're not doing it just for money or anything like that.
They certainly like the money, but they're doing it because of their passion, the most successful attorneys. I know and I've known extremely successful. Lots of, 'em not really the ones that are very good at what they're doing. Not that interested in money, not they certainly will charge the top of the market and make sure they collect their money, but they're interested in the work.
And when you love what you're doing the people around you want to give you more work in advance you and loving what you're doing by the way is really liking your practice area, liking the work being very supportive of the firm and but really liking the work you're doing. And think about it this way.
We had someone call our company yesterday and someone that I knew called the company and said that the [00:13:00] person that answered the phone was rude, not, they felt that they were rude and I didn't like that. And I was very upset. The point is that if you go to any business if you go to a restaurant and it's a big deal to you to go to the restaurant because you're spending money and your time and you're served by someone who clearly hates their job and doesn't like it and isn't enthusiastic and maybe screws up your order or whatever but just doesn't like their job, you would leave a bad tip and you wouldn't feel good about it. And you would not want to go back there.
You might go back there. Food is really good, but you probably wouldn't and you wouldn't have a good experience. And the same principal applies with the sort of work you do for people that you're working for. When a partner's giving you associate work, it's no different than a client giving you work.
You're basically apprenticing when someone else is giving you work for what'll happen. When a client gives you work and they're watching the quality you do, they're watching your level of enthusiasm and certain people rise in this and other people don't. But people wanna believe that you're enthusiastic.
And it's very important and they wanna believe that you like the work that you wanna do it, that you're interested in. It I've seen like some [00:14:00] attorneys, like attorneys will always and people, will always at all levels lose jobs and things and be unemployed. And the people they get jobs are always, if you say it's very interesting by the way.
And I and this should be a whole separate topic in itself, but the people that get jobs are always saying stuff like when they're asked about they're when they're asking questions or someone's telling them what kind of work that the firm's doing, they ask a lot of questions, they'll say, oh, this is great.
So did you, do you do this, do you research that, do you research this? Do what do you do? How do you do it? What, they ask all sorts of questions about the work and other people will be like, oh, okay. That's pretty self-explanatory. I understand. Thank you. I wanna ask a lot of question. The people that ask a lot of questions when they're interviewing for jobs and they about the quality of the work, the type of work, the, how it's done and what the client's doing.
And they did you think of this and that always get jobs, people that don't. One of the things that's interesting to me too, is there's always been a lot of age discrimination and attorneys in the legal profession. And [00:15:00] there could be a lot of reasons for that. It could be because you're expected to make partner in a certain number of years, and then they don't wanna bring a senior people part of that competition, but there's, but for the most part if you're an older attorney with seven or eight more and more years of experience it's some firms they'll hire you beyond that.
It's fine, but it's unless you have a lot of business, it's, it is very difficult to get work. And now there are exceptions to that and certain corporate practice areas and different locations, but for the most part You don't have business. It's very difficult. And the ones at get jobs all have an infectious enthusiasm for their jobs and clearly love what they're doing.
And but the problem is a lot of times senior attorneys do not appear to have that enthusiasm and it's a bright-eyed bushy tail type of enthusiasm. And sometimes they're not, they even appear angry and and they just don't appear to love the work as much. You may have had some bad experiences and these are people that are avoid.
And and so this is, a lot of times, if you get more [00:16:00] senior, you may have less enthusiasm for the work. And and that employers will pick up on that. And by definition, the people that are less enthusiastic for the work are the ones that are forced out and don't give business and all that.
So that's one of the reasons I think that there's a lot of there sometimes is, certainly at age discrimination and the very best associates really do love the work they're doing. They get excited about it. And and if you can't fall in love with your job and the work you're doing, you're gonna be in trouble.
You're gonna be in trouble because you're gonna have to compete against people that. Get to work and think it's fun. They wanna go to work. They they love it. It gives them strength and power and then law firms want people that want to work. So would you would, who are you gonna hire if you have someone?
I, and I give these kind of examples all the time. If you have someone that want you wanna work and take care of your kids and your house, and someone shows up and they have all these classes they've taken and they love [00:17:00] it, and they've written a book about it and they and other person shows up and is just do or negative, who are you gonna hire?
It's just think about it. And so this is how law firms think too. They give people more work that are enthusiastic about all the work that they get. And and the ones that aren't enthusiastic, that are negative and so forth, don't get more work don't advance and typically have career problems later on.
The second thing is superstar associates typically will treat partners and everyone that they encounter like value clients. Just remember when a partner's giving you work, it's no different than a client giving you work directly. The partner is basically supervising the work before you do work for clients directly, but as an associate, you need to understand how to provide the best possible service to partners and and then treat people around you in a way that that makes them feel like they're being taken care of.
And they, you want things you want things to go very smoothly. And and there's a lot to talk about with this, about going smoothly, but think about it from the standpoint of the client. [00:18:00] So the client, which is the partner wants to give you work and then not think about it anymore.
They want to be able to give you a task and have it completed. And really unless the question's very important not have obstacles in the way, not have questions raised, just have it done well and smoothly. And there are people that that are very good in all professions that are given work to do.
It's done well, and all this stuff happens in the background without anybody thinking about it and the product is delivered and it's done. There are other people and attorneys that will get work and not, it will never go smoothly. There'll be all sorts of problems and things that are going wrong and and conflict and questions and things that reasons it can't be done.
And no one wants to deal with people like that. And that's how it is. So years ago I was being interviewed for a book about how to be a legal recruiter, and it's even more complex now to. In the business that I'm in because there's tons of [00:19:00] things that go on, you have attorneys of different different class levels, attorneys of different experience with different types of experience attorneys that are general practitioners that may be a real estate and corporate attorney, or just a corporate and they know corporate, they might be just secure.
It's very complex. And then you have different markets and different things that firms want and don't want and wanna see, and don't wanna see and imagine multiplying that by, tens of thousands of times for, all the firms in the country and the anyway, it's just a lot of, there's a lot of details.
And so what a good recruiter does is if you sign up to work with a good recruiter is going to take care of all these details they're gonna do. They're gonna take a look at your resume and have, look at tons and tons of data points. And and then they're gonna look at jobs and they're gonna do all these things and it may be.
hundred hours worth of work that happen. It's before you even see a job, there may have been, hundreds of hours of work and research and things that were done just to present that one job to you. Now, I'm not saying that's normal, but if you're presented with the job list and there, you have to think about [00:20:00] all the research or when end up defining those and just lots and lots of work.
So the point is that what a good recruiter does and a good real estate agent or anybody they're doing all this work behind the scenes. And and they're making people feel like everything happened. And it was very seamless and easy. And there wasn't, the candidate wasn't being called every single time, they were rejected from a job or a firm and the firm wasn't, nothing and the firm wasn't seeing, having to look at a hundred resumes that were on qualified for the job before they saw one, everything just happens very easily.
And that's what people do. This is, an example of just what happens in our business. If a law firm tells us about a single job, we may spend a lot of money advertising the job we may email or call hundreds of people about it or thousands we'll may talk to, lots of people and hundreds of people, maybe about the job.
And then a week or so later after all this work, we may submit just a few candidates or one candidate to the law firm. And then we'll talk to the attorney about the reasons that they may wanna leave their firm and join the new one. We may [00:21:00] also convince the law firm to interview the new person despite criticisms that they have about the attorney that we probably what's the point of sharing them with the, there may be a point, but you typically don't wanna share the candidate's criticisms and the law firm's criticism of each other with a candidate.
Cuz then you just create conflict. Cause and if they were to introduce if they were to meet independently without an intermediary and they both had all these doubts, they would just fall apart. But if they tell the recruiter a good recruiter, what their problems are about each other, then the recruiter can diffuse it on both sides and get them together.
So anyway, by the time they both meet. The meeting goes smoothly. There may be no further interviews and back and forth and offers may and the person's hired and it may look like nothing happened and people think, oh, it's so easy to do what you do. You just, but there's an incredible amount of work that happened behind the scenes.
Hundreds of hours of work maybe. And and the interaction was made positive. And despite the fact that these people may have never gotten together, the law firm may have said, why would we hire this person from outta state? We don't, then you'd have [00:22:00] say you have to, there's not a lot of people locally.
And and this is the reason and the Canada may say, why would I interview at this firm? Because it's not as prestigious and doesn't pay as much as where I'm working say, because there's more opportunity. There's like a lot of things that are going on beside, behind the scenes and to make a match. And the point I'm making to you, and this is the important thing, is that things need to go smoothly when you're given assignments and and your ability to resolve issues around the way that the client isn't even aware of is one of the characteristics of the best people in every profession.
Partners don't wanna feel a lot of stress when they give you work. They want to know that it's done properly and without a lot of issues and the worst people in any profession, whether it's Law or accounting or real estate or whatever, just create a lot of additional stress when they're giving people assignments or when they're given work.
And they just, they don't get the task done. They they find reasons to create problems or, and it's just how it is. And so when you're a good associate in a law firm, you understand that there's different personalities[00:23:00] and you learn to anticipate what those different personalities are looking for.
And that a certain partner may I don't know, check his email at 11 o'clock at night. And so you can talk to him then or you may know a certain partner may log in and I don't know, wanna review work that she receives in the morning. It's just, it's a, so you just, it, it doesn't you have to be able to anticipate what people want.
You have to anticipate that people may want to see, supporting documentation when you cases, when you turn in a brief it just depends. So it just, you have to know what it takes to get on people's good side, and you have to understand the price, precise expectations of people and and then not create stress would the, would giving them the work.
An example would be if someone gives you an assignment and it. Relatively clear. Do you go and ask them questions 10 times and call them 10 times to get it done, or do you think through and make sure you understand the assignment very well. Maybe ask the questions when you first get the assignment if necessary and then find other associates that have worked for the person for find guidance.
You have to [00:24:00] be very careful because your job is to make their job easier, not harder. And so the more you create questions and things, the harder the more difficult it's and so the you have to make the people that are giving you work very comfortable and feel like it's gonna be done and they don't need to worry about you.
And this will build up trust. And pretty soon the partner will be comfortable giving you work and representing the law firm and meetings and clients, and not even, letting you go to court or if you're a litigator letting you transactions on your own, and this is what this is what they want.
If you go to a very good restaurant and again, there's different categories of law firms, there's very good law firms and there's poor law firms. But if you go to a very good restaurant your server is going to be constantly aware of your water glass level when to take your order, they're gonna watch if you're talking.
And and if there's a lull on the conversation or it looks like you're looking around looking for someone they're gonna run up, they're gonna they're gonna know. When it looks like you're uncomfortable and maybe about a delay, they're gonna know that how to time your appetizer and main course.
So they don't come out together. [00:25:00] They're gonna know all the stuff and they're gonna be very good at it. And and they're going to appropriately ask you how things are at the right time. And so they're in the middle of, I, there's all sorts of things that they'll do. And they're gonna exceed your expectations and get the best tips.
And the best associates are the same way. They're going to know how to do things and what people need. And they empower people around them based on their presence. They're given very good service that makes 'em feel good about the associate that makes the partners also, by the way, feel good about the service that the associates are that the law firm's providing them because partner's basically a business operating with the support of the law firm.
And so the associates are part of the support and the law partner will feel good about it. Then the firm will feel better about you. Good service makes 'em feel respected like they can trust you and that they're valuable. And that's the other thing too, is nothing is more common in a law firm than than partners that Associates may not respect or think are nerds or urial or whatever.
And and if those people feel [00:26:00] disrespected, they're gonna come down on you and destroy you. However, they can go use whatever power in their present in their, if it, whether it's finding errors or, and they'll come back and get you later, it's just, you have to be very careful. You need to bake the people around you feel respected, trusted and like they're valuable.
The partner always wants to feel like they're important, making them feel important is a big deal. And even how you treat your fellow associates, if you don't make them feel important, they're gonna get you. If you don't treat paralegal as well, they're gonna treat you, I've seen secretaries numerous times take people down that treat them poorly receptionist people in the copy room.
So you treat everybody very well. And and the better you do with that the better it's going to be. So the way it works and I'm sure I'm not saying anything that no one doesn't understand, but if you treat someone in the copy room or a secretary poorly and they are upset by it, they are going to look for a reason to bring whatever mistakes you make and you will make them to your superiors to make you look bad in the future.
[00:27:00] And they will do it and they always do it. And it always happens. And so your goal is to make people feel good because they will help you. So no matter how stupid someone is how dumb the air is, just never make people feel badly because if you do, they will come back and get you. And it doesn't benefit you.
It doesn't benefit them. It doesn't benefit the morale of the company or the firm. And it's very important. You have to empower people and and this is what the best leaders typically do is they make people feel stronger based on their presence. And and again, I'm not saying that I, that this is easy to do because not everybody can do it.
And but this is what the best people do. They build people up. The other thing is I, an associate will get mentors on their side. So most associates that are getting a lot of work that become partners, always have mentors that are helping them behind the scenes that are lobbying for them behind the scenes that are clearing the path for them that are providing them [00:28:00] information.
Like I'm providing you right now. I'm not consider myself your mentor right now, because I'm trying to give you information to help you and mentors do that. They will point things out at the right time. They will they will. They're often very attracted by the enthusiasm of the associate, but they're also attracted by the respect you're giving them.
And the respect is very important. And and they can provide you really good service. I, it was interesting to me like, and I don't know how this isn't that relevant, but I knew someone that was, going to make partner could have made partner at a very large law firm.
And and they said something about how they weren't able to convince the right mentor or something to get behind them. And that's very common. I've the few times in my life that that where I've been advanced, for, it's always important to have a mentor behind you. You need to find someone that is doing something that you like, that you need to make them feel that you care about them.
Whether it's a mother figure, a father figure you need [00:29:00] to really be. That you need to get them interested in you and wanna support you and seek their advice and and let them guide you. And they will I can I don't know how many stories I can tell you about good mentors helping me.
But I just remember when I was in even when I was in high school, I had a really outstanding English teacher that was considered the hardest teacher in the school. And everyone had to get a, basically a what's called an advisor and it was only myself and one other kid that chose this guy because he was just, very demanding and and anyway, so the he asked me what, what college I wanted to go to.
And I told him, and he was like, you can't go there. What's your second choice. And and I told him, and he said, okay, great. That's where you'll go. And so he made sure that, that happened. And I had something very similar happen in college and that's all because I followed this person and worshiped them.
And and the other guy that did it went thinking, went to Harvard and it's just the point is that you get [00:30:00] behind people that have a lot of power or or you believe in them and they can help you. And and I've seen that. I even saw when I was in law school, I saw I think I may have told the story before, but I was sitting outside the door of I believe it was Saul Lovemore.
He's I think he might have, he said, maybe he's still the Dean of the university of Chicago law school, but he used to teach at my law school. And he was talking about a student and talking to a law firm and and that was a a similar type of thing happening where he was basically telling this law firm that they should make this person an offer and not this person or not make this person an offer that they would choose you.
And it would be smart and, so it's just how it works. And So you have to get mentors and they can definitely help you. And and mentors will go out of their way to help you. And and they and again, to this day I have relationships with former mentors and and a lot of it is just sometimes is just being very interested in them because very few people are interested in this.
Think about the people in your life that [00:31:00] are interested in you and would want your advice and wanna know how you got to where you are. And. And that would be that's very helpful for you. It's good for your self-esteem. It makes you like people that are interested in you and this is very important.
So I, I had a a mentor when I was my first firm. I worked at he was a very powerful partner with some really incredible clients, but but he was also just very bookish and nerdy, and he I think he brought up treatise about something and and I would sit in his office and listen to him, talk for hours and he would, he was brilliant.
And and I would tell him, I thought he was brilliant and and defend him to other associates who would make fun of him and so forth and even partners when they but the point is that, that and he was a, he's still a great attorney. At the point is he gave me a lot of work. And and like me and continually sends me updates about how he's doing each year and long letters that he me sends out to everyone on his west, about his family and so forth.
So the point is that mentors are important and they can help you. [00:32:00] And and and they wanna be partner partners and law firms wanna be our mentor. And and, but you have to connect with them and you have to connect based on your interest in the subject matter, that what they've done respecting the way they think about things.
And it has to be genuine too. So people, a lot of people will fake this stuff, you, it has to be for real and they can pick it up. If someone is BSing you or not really interested in you you, it you may not know it initially, but you'll pick up on it. And these relationships are hugely important.
I have a relative that was working at a big New York firm and their office in Hong Kong. And they, one day the office in Hong Kong had to lay off all of, most of its corporate people, but he'd been working for very powerful partner. And within a week or two, he got a job that paid, I think, double or three times what he was making.
In Hong Kong, working in a is a in-house council for a big company. And so the point is that mentors will help you and they can help you throughout your career. [00:33:00] And the only thing you need to do to get a really good mentor many times is just respect them and give them respect and go outta your way to help them and be interested in them.
And and and it and it can also be informal. Now that informal formality, by the way I've seen mentor relationships blown one person I know had a very good mentor and then started talking to the mentor about their sex life. And the second they did that the relationship was blown and the mentor actually.
Cut them off and ended the employment relationship. So it just, you have to be very careful and it wasn't, there was anything negative about these, this interaction. It's just that's what happened. And so the it's, it is a one way street. Like the, if the mentor asks you personal questions, you should a answer them, but you don't wanna, they're not your friend, is what I'm saying.
And they can, there, there's a certain level of distance and respect. You need to give person. And over time there's a something that develops and the associate partner with both help each other there's instances where associates aren't [00:34:00] made partner and the part the partner that was our mentor will pack up and leave or start a new firm with them.
And and I've just seen all sorts of things happen with really with these really good relationships, because a good mentor, by the way if you are a good mentee they will feel that you have their back no matter what. And there's very few people in our lives in anyone's life especially professional relationships where people feel like.
And these bonds are important and everybody needs that and the associates need it as well. And and the more you have a bond like that the more this person's gonna protect you for the rest of your career. Now, I just wanna say a few things just cuz I want to be very clear about the mentor mentee relationship.
This is a professional relationship. This should not be you have to keep your distance. It's a it's respect from a distance. It's not a real friendship. It should never be a friendship. It's certainly under no circumstances romantic type of relationship. It's not a chance for you to call up and cry about things that are happening in your personal life.
It's a chance for [00:35:00] you to talk about issues, but not too much. And you have to be very careful. You, but you definitely whatever you can do you, you wanna get a mentor and it's important. And if you don't have a mentor which is very common it's if you don't have a mentor I would much rather go to a firm where my salary was less, but I had a mentor than one where my salary was higher or a less prestigious firm where I had a mentor or stay there than one where I didn't know if I would have a mentor.
I would rather if I had a really good mentor, I would rather stay at a firm than. Just that's just me because the mentor's going to protect you now. One other point I just wanted to make about mentors. Then I'm gonna move on with your mentors. You do typically want to have mentors that have power.
The best mentors are not just going to be service partners without business. They're going to be partners with business. They're going to be hopefully the most powerful partners. But it's up to you. Whoever you get is better than nothing, but at the same time and even a partner without business can [00:36:00] teach you the robes and things you need to do.
And just because they don't have business, doesn't mean they can't teach you how to do things and and so forth. Those are just a few points, but mentors are very important. Now the next one is the best associates are always in control. I visit law firms not as frequently as I used to, but sometimes I used to visit three or four a day and and always get tours of the firms.
And there's always firms that, where the associates are just slumped over, looking tired and looking like they just can't deal with it anymore. Sometimes their offices are, there's paper stacked up all over that are disorganized, sometimes fading from the sun.
And they may be wearing crooked tie a hair may be a mess. And and and then they almost look at that as a sign of that they're working really hard and sign of strength, or I don't know, but and clump up clothes on the corner and that sort of thing. And so the point is that the people that you're working for are clients your office and your frankly the way you look is your business is your storefront.
You need to look like you're in control. And if you're not, that's not good. Again, if a client were to [00:37:00] walk into your office and see it like that they might not like it. And may not have confidence in you. I'm not saying you have to have your office Stick and span. And but you typically people feel like the more organized your offices, the more organized your mind is the more organized your mind is the better attorney you are.
And and they want to have confidence. And and if it looks like you're in control and things are well organized, that gives them a lot of more confidence. So being in control can mean different things. It can mean looking your best. Now this isn't to say that you have to be super fit or anything along those lines, you should be the person you're happy being whether whatever the person you are, but it means looking profess like clean shaven or clean, I don't know whatever the word is to trim your beard, but looking good and meaning dress not in a very shabby way making sure you're clean.
Your office is clean and organized. If you're wearing a suit and shoes are polished, dry cleaned and then the correct mannerism and just doing your best to take care of your help. The, these are things that are pretty basic [00:38:00] for a lot of people, but other people they're not. You just, you wanna the more in control you appear, the more The more confidence people are gonna have in giving you work.
And it's not easy by the way. I'm not saying that if you're working in a giant firm and working 3000 hours a year that you can certainly look your best and have your shoes polished all the time and dry clean. But the point is that you really wanna look as good as you, you wanna look professional and and and you want people to believe that that your mind is well organized.
Your personal life shouldn't be interfering with work are people that who that's the case for. There's always all sorts of drama and so forth, and you don't want that to happen. You should really not interject your personal life into your work. If you start talking about things that are happening with you personally, to people at work that they will always talk to other people.
And if you're doing negative things it can really we'll come back and you'll be in trouble with it for it. Or if people just don't approve of you're outside of work behavior, I don't know you just don't want to [00:39:00] involve people too much in it now. What do I mean by that?
It's okay for you to talk about. Your husband or, to, to general conversations, but if you're having very serious personal issues at home with I dunno, whatever you wanna be very careful about that. There's nothing wrong with having a personal life and having tragedy. And that's not really what I'm interfering with.
It's, just making like everyone is your friend and you can tell them the same type of personal things you would tell a friend, you have to be careful with that. You need to be careful about talking on your cell phone and taking your phone out all the time at work. That's just when you're getting work, you don't want people to see you on your cell phone all the time.
You're should assume that anything you do on your computer at work is recorded. Same thing with laptops. Sometimes that's not always the case. It's certainly, probably not even the case 50% or even 20% of the time for some firms. It's the case a hundred percent of the time. If you abuse substances and come to work hungover or whatever that, that could help hurt you.
If you other things would be the big one of course [00:40:00] is affairs with people in the office. I can't tell you every firm that I've ever worked at. Even ones that I know people have worked at, that's always been an issue. Everyone finds out about it. If there's no it's never secret.
And it can lead to all sorts of problems for everybody involved. So it's just man, woman, whatever. It's just, people always find out about it. I don't know why that is. They know exactly what's going on. And then acting professionally with colleagues and others is always important. I've seen just all sort these are things that, that can get you in trouble.
And the more in control you appear the more likely you'll be considered good at your job. And and again, there's. Think about yourself, if you were sick with cancer or something, I don't know. Or and you went to your doctor and the doctor themselves looked very unhealthy and come and organized, you would probably be a little scared because you would think how is this person going to understand what I'm doing?
If they're not even together enough to keep take care of themselves or their office and so forth. And you have to be careful. And so you do wanna look in control and now it's not [00:41:00] to say you have to be like some sort of military person slapping your heels and everything.
And everything's perfect. But you just, you don't want the more out of control you look the worst the best associate too are best associates are committed. So one of the biggest problems of a lot of attorneys, and this is a huge issue, especially for young people is just this kind of lack of commitment which people pick up on very quickly.
And there's just a huge it's obvious to partners. It's obvious to associates. It's obvious to everybody, if you're not committed again, I'm always see people. That approached me that are not committed, that are interested in moving firms for the wrong reasons. If you are moving firms all the time and not necessarily moving to better and better firms, which is actually believe it or not can be considered a form of commitment and actually good, but you're moving to poor firms or not as good a affirm the same firms.
People are gonna think you're not committed. People will trust you less. They will, it will be more difficult to get mentors. If you don't look committed to what you're doing why would a mentor want to [00:42:00] help someone that who's said they want to go in house in a few years? Or why would a mentor wanna help someone that that may want to go into a different profession?
You have to be a hundred percent all in, and I hate to say that, but that's really what you need to do, and there's nothing wrong with moving firms. But you really wanna move firms only if it's a form of commitment. So if I'm a corporate attorney and I'm working at mid-size companies and I really wanna work on larger companies and I move to a larger firm, that's great.
That's form of commitment. If I move to a firm where I can do even more specialized transactions from there, because I wanna concentrate on there. That's great. That's form of commitment, but commitment is really what people are looking for. And if you're not committed, it's just going to show in a lot of ways.
So a lot of people will. Move after they get partners rude to them or says something negative to them or gives 'em a bad review. And and then the second that happens, people look for a job all this stuff, by the way. It's just the test of your commitment.
So the test of your [00:43:00] commitment is if you are if you're given negative feedback or feedback, as negative, you have two choices. One is to get angry and think that it's a personal assault to your ego, and it's all about you and leave or the other is to or avoid the partner and not work with them anymore, or leave the firm.
And the other is to to start show your commit commitment by work, even harder, fix the issues get over that bump in the road and move forward and realize your fault and whatever the person's issues were. And this goes a long way because there's nothing wrong with learning lessons and being committed.
And honestly the commitment you will show firms. You're not committed if you're talking about better salaries at other firms, if you're talking about I don't know, not if you don't seem interested in your practice area, if you're not, don't seem committed to the firm, if you're not.
Committed to the geographic area where you're, there's so many things that come across as with commitment, but commitment. Think about it from the standpoint of the [00:44:00] firm, why would you wanna make someone an owner of your business if you didn't think they were committed? It just doesn't make any sense.
They want you to be committed. The next thing is your reputation reputation means different things in different firms. But the biggest thing is how seriously you take every matter that's assigned to you peoples will and I've seen it when someone does a really good job for a partner on an assignment where it's not expected because it's, it exceeds the quality of the people that are other people doing the work.
It it really says a lot and people are like, wow, I wanna use this person again in the future. And a lot of times what associates do and people in all professions do that aren't up to. It's not they'll turn in work. That's not complete and not perfect. And so they'll turn in memos with typos.
They'll turn in briefs with incomplete citations or improper citations, bad spacing they'll turn in, they'll do corporate documents and they will have inconsistent or conflicting. There's all sorts of things. But and just to give you the way it's [00:45:00] done or the way it should be done is if you write something, generally, you're gonna spend much longer making it perfect then even to get a, write it most of the time.
And this is and then you're thinking through everything. And and then the other thing that is important for your reputation is to update people when things are gonna be done. So people wanna know when assignments are gonna be done, they wanna know that you're on things. They wanna know that if they tell you to do something, it's not gonna be forgotten that that you're gonna take every assignment.
I've seen people in law firms that have forgotten assignments. Lose their job. So again, everything needs to be tracked and you need to track all your assignments and you also need to make people understand that you're gonna do everything you possibly can to do your best with everything you're given now it doesn't have to be if you're asked to legal question, it doesn't have to be a hundred page memo or a hundred page, whatever.
But you have to do the best job you can. And and if you have an important assignment pending, meaning it's time sensitive you're expected to get it [00:46:00] done. That means you work on Sunday, you work on Saturday, you work all night. If you need to. And earning a reputation for this sort of stuff is important.
And this is what it's required to be a partner it's required. What's required to be a business owner it's required being a partner which is essentially a business owner and and and you need to really do your best. So you want to do the best work you can. And and you wanna have a reputation for taking work very seriously and and doing things effectively and the most you can now, that's not to say you're not going to improve over time and get better, but this is what is expected.
And and every firm and the thing is about partners is partners do talk. That think about From their point of view, like it's a, they talk about the people that they're giving work to. They, if they have good people they try to get them on their work and they'll fight about getting access to the best people.
Then they will fight about having to work with the bad people and they won't wanna work with them. And and it's just how it works. And so your job is [00:47:00] to really do the best work you can. And and you learn to do the best work you can by anticipating needs by all sorts of things. I I'll tell this point that I have another point, but when I was working in law firms, there was always associates who didn't have any work.
It was fascinating. They these firms would be everybody would be working crazy hours and and they wouldn't have anything and they might not have anything. I was in one firm where there was an associate that hadn't had work for over a year. And he wouldn't, he would show up in the morning and close his door and just sit in his office and no one would give him any work.
And and he was very it must have been psychologically devastating. I can't even imagine. But the point is that this happens and all firms and sometimes you get a bad reputation just for doing something really poorly poor layer. It can become. Uncool among the partners who use you for assignments, meaning, we're not gonna use this person because, we're just very upset about the way they I and other partners will lobby other partners not to give you work and make sure that they don't give you [00:48:00] work.
Cause if they give you work, then they're gonna be in a, in the dispute and not supporting the partner that didn't like what you did to them. And so your behavior and your reputation is really based on the work you do, but it's also your personal behavior your reputation with your subordinates and colleagues and other people is important.
And you need to do everything you can to develop. Aion, they'll help you. I'll tell you a quick story. And it was a pretty good lesson, actually. When I was growing up in Detroit there was the all these Japanese car companies were coming into the, to the us market and they were making cars that were much, much better like that would, they would last longer, they wouldn't break down.
They would there were so many they would have much better resale values. They would they would get much better gas mileage. There was just honestly from a. Business standpoint. There was no reason to buy most American cars compared to a Japanese car. And so I remember I, so I used to, my dad used to pay me to do things like shovel snow around the [00:49:00] house, or and he would say, you have to be competitive in any business or and this is a business you shoveling snow, you should always do extra work.
So if you are just if you just shovel the driveway that's fine, but you should probably also shovel the walk. And then if you shovel the walk, you should also probably make sure you take the snow off the ons and and do something nice like that. And maybe put some salt down on the side, a sidewalk and do a little bit extra to show that you appreciate the work and also to provide more value than someone else might be doing the same thing.
So it's like that with the work that you do for and his point was, this is what the Japanese do with their cars compared to what Americans are doing where you take the person you're working the. Client, which was the American consumer for granted and the people that were making cars in Japan and Germany at the time as well.
Weren't taking the consumer for granted were having to over deliver and they were and doing a good job. You always want to over deliver and rep develop a reputation for doing much [00:50:00] better work than it's expected. The next thing is you always need to work hard and be available. You'll be judged based on the number of hours you bill.
That's not always the case, but for the most part, it is partners are gonna know if your pat on your bill, so that's not something you should be doing, but at the same time you do need to put the work you believe you can and should be into assignments. Most of the time, if somebody's giving you an assignment and they want you to bill on a lot of hours, they'll say this is an important assignment.
And the client really needs, us to do a thorough job or the client doesn't have a big budget. They'll give you all sorts of clues about how much you can bill and and you should really follow and do what they ask you meaning, but it's very important. You should put in an extra time.
And and obviously the more you understand about what you're doing. The more effective you're going to be. So if you take the time to dig into a matter you can win a negotiation or complete a Ben, a transaction for the benefit of your client. Then this is going to be very much respected by the partners you're working for.
The first firm I worked at was a very good firm and we had this case [00:51:00] where I don't know, like a satellite had failed and when it was launched, I, some solar panels hadn't opened or something. And so this thing was just coasting out space and and our client thought they were going to need to basically pay for this and which was hundreds of millions of dollars.
And I don't know if it was hundreds, it was over a hundred million dollars from what I remember. But anyway, the point is that that I was given a research assignment and and I to go and basically come up with all sorts of creative arguments and things that would make it. Our client wouldn't have to pay.
And and I was told basically to just sit around all weekend just thinking about it and bill for my time thinking, and I was like, this is crazy. Okay, I'll do that. But I did, I thought about it. I diagramed, it, I did all sorts of things. I just did what I was told and by the end of the Weekend I'd come up with an idea that I thought was pretty good and that would get our client out of it.
And when I presented it to this partner in the firm, it was a [00:52:00] very smart guy. He'd been at Gibson, dun I think, and might have clerked on the Supreme court or something. But he took the same idea and I didn't, my idea was not complete, so I'm never not taking, but he took the idea that I'd come up with and he put a, like a twist on it.
That was unbelievable. And it made the the people that actually launched a satellite or hadn't owned the satellite, not the ones that launched it liable. I don't know what it, what happened, but the point is that very people that think in a lot of depth and go can, can really hugely benefit the clients.
And and and really, if you think about things in great depth and you go into a lot of detail. Now, this isn't something but partners love it. When you have a better command in the facts, that's what you're paid to. You're paid to, you're not paid to have handhold.
You're paid to actually think about things in much that much more depth than they are. And and that gives, 'em a lot of confidence in giving you work and it's really what's expected. And and it's probably the main reason you wanna work as hard as you can. And if you're working with a man and a partner you should be If they work in the office you should be in the office [00:53:00] with her when she's working on the matter.
And and they want again, this is people work remotely and so forth, but they, they do wanna see you online. If they're coming in on Saturday to work on it, you should, people want to be able to call you. They want to be able to feel supported. They want to feel like they can ask you questions.
And and that your work is more important than whatever they're doing. They don't want to hear they, they want you to be available. And and that's important. Just think about it from their perspective. You'll have an opportunity to be like them later on if you do this well, but while you're in the apprentice period, which is an ass