Seeking feedback — part one

Seek specific feedback regularly.

Seek specific feedback regularly.

As discussed in Making Partner, three keys to success in any legal job is to seek specific feedback on a regular basis, take immediate action to improve in the areas identified, and follow up with details of your progress.  The first step is discussed below and the second two steps will be discussed in the next post.

  • Seek specific feedback regularly
    • Request at least one or two meetings in between scheduled reviews with the partners with whom you are working.
    • Solicit opinions about how you are doing and what areas could use improvement.
    • Prepare ahead by sending the partner specific questions you have.
    • It may be helpful to take questions directly off an evaluation form the firm uses to measure attorney progress. Read More…

Thriving at a top firm

Think and act like a partner with a focus on the firm.

Think and act like a partner with a focus on the firm.

LegalJob and Making Partner followers always ask if there is a way to prioritize (and perhaps shorten the list of) all the helpful advice provided concerning how to be successful at a big law firm.

This post is an attempt to do that.  Here are three big picture thoughts for thriving at a top firm:

1)     Be firm centric.   Try to think in terms of how what you are doing could benefit the firm.  You may ultimately decide not to do it that way but at least you have given it some thought.  A couple of examples: Read More…

What legal employers are looking for

Consider selling these traits of yours to legal employers.

Consider selling these traits of yours to legal employers.

LegalJob came across a fantastic blog with a post containing advice about six traits legal employers are looking for based on a survey of law firms, companies, government offices and other places.   Check out the complete post here.

The short summary list with LegalJob’s editorial comments is provided here:

1. Likeability/personality

Read More…

Four steps for overcoming rejection from any law firm (or other employer)

Provide good ideas and address the arguments against you.

Provide good ideas and address the arguments against you.

People are rejected from their “dream” legal jobs all the time, especially in this market.  Sometimes it was not meant to be and it is best just to move on to something else. However, in many instances showing persistence with a real plan can change the outcome the second time around.

Try following these four steps the next time you get rejected:

1)        Seek feedback as to why the answer is no.

Read More…

Making decisions versus implementation

Reverse the formula.  Spend more time on implementation then decision-making.

Reverse the formula. Spend more time on implementation then decision-making.

Pre-law students spend a lot of time deciding whether they should go to law school and which law school they should attend.  What if law school does not work out?  What if they cannot get a job?  Should they go to the higher ranked school in the city in which they have no desire to live?

Law students spend a lot of time picking their major.  What should they pick?  How do they make the choice?  What if they pick the wrong the practice area?  What if there are no jobs available in this practice area?  What if they make the “wrong” decision and hate what they do?

Law firm associates spend a lot of time focusing on a niche.  What should they pick?  How do they make the choice?  Is their pick a viable niche in the long term?  Is Making Partner a feasible goal?  Should they stay at the same firm?

Read More…

Thoughts for picking a major

pick a major

There are many hot practice areas to choose from. Make an informed decision as soon as possible to separate yourself from your peers.

LegalJob has mentioned in Making Partner and on this blog the importance of picking a major as the first step in pursuing a legal job.  This step can open up opportunities for you when networking as you target your meetings with people who are practicing in the area you have identified and you later reference what you learned in your interviews as a way of demonstrating your sincere interest level and seriousness of purpose.

So how do you start?  What major should you pick if you have no idea what you want to do?  As mentioned in previous posts, reading a paper and watching Congress highlights the heavy activity in regulatory areas such as tax, securities, financial services, health care, intellectual property, etc.  These areas seem to have lots of job opportunities as demand is outpacing supply.

There are also some up and coming practice areas that are worth exploring.  Take a look at this blog which discusses eleven hot practices areas such as digital asset planning, privacy law, nontraditional family practice, marijuana law, wine law, robotics, etc.  The author notes that each of these areas provide lots of job opportunities, staying power, are growth industries, have relative ease of entry, and have wide geographic scope.  

Read More…

Help for law students

Maximize studying time with effective habits.
Study how to study to be a successful law school student.

Making Partner provides tips for how to be a successful law student such as joining study groups, reviewing old exams if available, and learning about the issues which interest your professors. Supplement the advice in Making Partner with the guidance contained in the article linked on this blog (click on PDF option near bottom of post).

The article provides useful advice on reading cases, briefing cases, taking notes, creating outlines, and preparing for exams.

Read More…

Keys to effective associate communication with partners


Determine partner preferences upfront so you can satisfy them later.

Determine partner preferences upfront so you can satisfy them later.

Making Partner today is likely to depend on various factors for which you have no control  — how the firm is doing, how your practice group is doing, who else is being considered at the same time, etc.   There are, however, at least two items you can control — becoming technically proficient in your particular practice area and mastering certain behaviors called soft skills that will help you work effectively with all types of partners and clients.  Soft skills are personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.  These skills are covered extensively in Making Partner.

This post focuses on one soft skill, effective communication.  Note, however, that demonstrating substantive proficiency is a must and a focus on developing and refining soft skills is not a substitute.  Young lawyers should strive to learn as much as possible from partners, seek mentors, regularly keep up with recent developments, write and speak on relevant and timely topics, attend seminars to stay current with the latest happenings in the area, etc.  The ABA has various books in its survival guide series to help you navigate through various practice areas.

Now, back to the soft skills.  The key to communicating effectively is to determine and satisfy partner preferences as much as possible.  As summarized below, each stage of a project from the partner  – receiving the assignment, performing the work, and presenting the conclusions — provides the associate an opportunity to demonstrate understanding of partner preferences and to satisfy those preferences. Read More…

Secure a mentor and a sponsor for success at the law firm

Secure a sponsor and a mentor for success at the law firm.

Secure a sponsor and a mentor for success at the law firm.

In Making Partner, we talk about the importance of securing an effective “sponsor” early on as an associate.  In that context, a sponsor is someone who has your back and is in a position of influence when it comes time to fight for your annual raises, leadership positions for you at the firm, and consideration for partnership (both whether you should be considered and timing).  It is also important to secure a mentor who can help teach you how to practice law and how to be a xyz (tax, securities, corporate, etc.) lawyer.  Generally, a mentor and a sponsor will be two different people.  A mentor can be someone for whom you do a lot of work and one who is clearly technically proficient as a xyz lawyer.  A sponsor should be someone with whom you may have something in common, so called touchpoints (i.e., a female for female associates, someone with a similar background, from the same hometown, someone with whom you share similar interests, hobbies, etc.) that is in a leadership position at the firm.

Check out this interview to learn about sponsors (albeit in the corporate context but it works the same way at the firm) and advice for finding the right sponsor.  The article explains the difference between a sponsor and a mentor (and suggests sponsors are more important but in the law firm context, they are both important on your way to making partner).  From the article, “Mentors shine as you start to define your dream. They can see and put into words for you what you may not see about yourself or be able to articulate. They can help you determine your strengths: what you do exceptionally well and what sets you apart…If mentors help define the dream, sponsors are the dream-enablers. Sponsors deliver: They make you visible to leaders within the company — and to top people outside as well. They connect you to career opportunities and provide air cover when you encounter trouble.”

Image courtesy of nokhoog buchachon/

Some keys to successful client development

making partner, client development

Cast a wide net, help others, and have a long view.

LegalJob is frequently asked how young attorneys can build their client base.  Many ideas for long term success are provided in Making Partner.  Two of those ideas are to:  (i) actively seek referrals; and (ii) have the long view.

Actively seek referrals

One should consider actively seeking referrals from:  (i) existing clients; (ii) colleagues; and (iii) friends.

Read More…