More secrets of exceptional associates

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:

an insatiable thirst for knowledge strong interpersonal communication skills
a high level of enthusiasm for their work a partner’s mindset
a long-term view willingness to seek and take feedback
good judgment a tendency to take ownership
a strong mentor creative intelligence

This post describes the importance of having a partner's mindset.  Note that many of these items overlap.

Partner's mindset

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:

  1. Have a big-picture focus
  2. Be the person that figures out what else should be done on the project and do it, and
  3. Be intrapreneurial.

Exceptional associates understand that to more fully serve the partner/client it is important to understand and be able to advise on the implications of the bigger picture.  For example, they seek to understand how their memo dealing with a narrow research issue relates to the whole case.  What torts if the recommendation or conclusion is unfavorable?  What prompted the partner to create the project?  What would happen if this piece is not completed or done properly?

Exceptional associates also give themselves assignments in addition to those the partners assign.  They are constantly asking themselves what else besides the piece assigned would be helpful to do/understand for the case and then they volunteer to work on that piece.

Exceptional associates are intrapreneurs.  An intrapreneur is a lawyer that truly understands his or her client's business and is constantly thinking of ideas (including product, services, and different ways of doing something) that will benefit the client (or the partner's practice if that is more relevant).  He or she does not wait to be asked for solutions.  Instead, this lawyer generates new ideas or is constantly thinking about how to make half-baked ones suggested by others work.  Every situation is seen as an opportunity to improve something and demonstrate his or her creativity.

Image courtesy of chatchai_stocker at