This post is the second summarizing what ten big firm partners think contributed to their success as an associate. In their view (which LegalJob shares), one’s success as an associate depends on whether they have: (i) an insatiable thirst for knowledge; (ii) strong interpersonal communication skills; (iii) a high level of enthusiasm for their work; (iv) a partner’s mindset; (v) a long-term view; (vi) willingness to seek and take feedback; (vii) good judgment; (viii) a tendency to take ownership; (ix) a strong mentor; and (x) creative intelligence. This post describes the importance of having a partner’s mindset. Note that many of these items overlap.
One could write a book on this category (and one is coming) but for this post here is a summary. There are at least three ways to have a partner’s mindset: (i) have a big-picture focus, (ii) be the person that figures out what else should be done on the project and do it, and (iii) be intrapreneurial.
This article on Above the Law by a managing partner confirms the importance of being enthusiastic, one of the keys identified in an earlier post about how to be a superstar associate.
Associates often underestimate the time it takes to complete a project. The thinking is that they want to encourage the partner to provide more opportunities and they understand that generally the preference is for the assignment to be completed quickly (today) and efficiently (with as small amount of time billed as possible). However, this practice of underestimating the time will not likely lead to the desired result of gaining additional opportunities. Instead, it is likely to lead to fewer opportunities as the project takes more time to complete than predicted.
Check out this article about the power of managing expectations called “What Airlines Don’t Get About Delays.” It explains why people generally feel good about Disney (which pleasantly surprises you with its overestimates of wait times) but carry negative feelings about airlines (which seem to consistently disappoint passengers with their underestimates of length of delays).
Two possible solutions to determine a more realistic estimate are to: i) get to work on the assignment to determine the lay of the land so you have some idea what is involved before opining; and ii) have a discussion with the assigning partner on how long she expects the assignment to take and what she feels is appropriate to charge the client (in case those two are different). Then, at least you have some relevant information from which you can make your estimate. And depending on the circumstances you may want to provide yourself a little cushion like Disney (while being mindful of partner/client expectations).
This post is the first of three summarizing what 10 big firm partners think contributed to their success as an associate. In their view (which LegalJob shares), one’s success as an associate depends on whether they have: (i) an insatiable thirst for knowledge; (ii) strong interpersonal communication skills; (iii) a high level of enthusiasm for their work; (iv) a partner’s mindset; (v) a long term view; (vi) willingness to seek and take feedback; (vii) good judgment; (viii) a tendency to take ownership; (ix) a strong mentor; and (x) creative intelligence. This post describes the first three items.
1) Insatiable thirst for knowledge
This post continues with the concepts from 10 Simple Secrets of the World’s Greatest Business Communicators (herein “10 secrets”). As mentioned in the first post, this book for business leaders seeking to become more effective presenters can just as easily apply to lawyers seeking to become more effective at the business of practicing law. Below is a discussion of three more secrets and their application in the context of practicing law.
1) Start Strong
The author of 10 secrets advises the business speaker to start strong. He says people will remember the manner in which you start your presentation so the key is to cut to the chase and tell people why they should care about what you have to say. To help start strong, he suggests one provide the answers to the following questions in about thirty seconds: What is my service, product, company, or cause; what problem do I solve; how am I different; and why should you care.
LegalJob recently came across a book ostensibly for business leaders seeking to become more effective presenters but the material can just as easily apply to lawyers seeking to become more effective at the business of practicing law. The book is 10 Simple Secrets of the World’s Greatest Business Communicators (herein “10 secrets”). This post discusses the first three simple secrets and explains how they can apply in the law context. Future posts will cover the remaining secrets.
The author of 10 secrets advises the business speaker to be passionate. To help become passionate, he suggests one answer the questions of: Why do you believe in your service, product, company, or cause, why should your listeners care, and what’s your connection to your story (and are you incorporating that into your message).
Many junior lawyers find themselves unhappy at firms for different reasons. The overriding theme seems to be that the experience turns out to be inconsistent with their expectations. One way to potential avoid this outcome is to ask the five questions listed below before starting the job. These questions are taken from the helpful blog post linked here, which suggests asking these and other questions during an interview. LegalJob notes that these questions can be useful even when networking for the purpose of trying to figure out what kind of legal job (and practice area) most suits you.
Which practice areas are growing and which are declining?
This seems like a useful question to ask a prospective employer or a networking contact during an informational interview. The information provided could help you decide your “major” as a law student and/or which practice area(s) are in demand. Note that the answer could be particular to the firm but even so it is valuable information to have up front. The currency at a firm is the billable hour and a growing practice area is helpful for generating lots of hours.
Legal job posts a lot about the role of a mentor and a sponsor (which often are two different people) and the importance of securing one as a junior law firm associate. This post focuses on the mentee because securing a quality mentor is only half of the equation. There are certain things a mentee can do (and know) to enhance the value of the relationship (for both parties).
Below are five things a mentee can do to make the most out of his or her mentor relationship:
1) Make the relationship a legitimate, two -way exchange of give and take. This item is discussed in Making Partner and is most important. Your mentor has to see the value in serving in that role for you. How will you provide value to the mentor so that he or she will want to be your mentor? Perhaps you will do excellent work for them as their associate. Or you can think of useful business development idea for their practice and further, help your prospective mentor implement the idea. Or maybe you have a business contact or friend of a friend that can help your prospective mentor in some way. Maybe you have a helpful contact that can help your prospective mentor personally, i.e., tickets to a special sporting event, something for her husband or his wife or kids.
1) Get the list of the attendees beforehand and zero in on two or three people with whom you are interested in connecting.
2) Research these people, and dig deep. The internet is just a good starting point. In your research, think about ways you can possibly be helpful to them.
3) Go early and leave early (or at least as soon as you have met the folks you targeted). There will be less people there early so starting a conversation may be more natural. Also, people including you will get tired of the event one hour in so leave before you burn out.
This time of year provides a great opportunity to get a head start on 2015. Consider taking these five steps:
1) Develop your relationship with a mentor. Do you have a helpful mentor with whom you work well? If not, perhaps now is a good time to consider possible candidates and reach out to them. If you have a mentor, consider reaching out to him or her to discuss what went well in 2014 and goals for 2015. Make sure you have an agenda though and have questions thought out and written ahead of time so you can maximize your meeting time.
2) Follow-up on your year-end evaluation. Hopefully, you received some tangible feedback this year as to possible opportunity areas for you to grow and develop as a lawyer. Prepare a plan for addressing these items. If you have a plan, perhaps now is a good time to tackle some of the items. It may also a good time to seek further clarification (possibly from your mentor) for how best to remedy these items.