Thriving at a top 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:

  1. You want the firm to pay for you to take a second bar exam and bar course.  Great. Make it happen by persuading firm why that makes sense for the firm.  Identify current or prospective clients and work projects that you could help on once you have the second license.  Prepare a memorandum making your case and if possible demonstrate using numbers how quickly the firm may recoup its investment.  Remember to follow any particular firm procedures that exist to address the issue (including citing firm policy where relevant).
  2. You are a corporate associate but would like to work on more tax matters.  Is there anything in your background or work experience to suggest that your involvement in projects may result in increased revenue for the firm?  Have you talked d with the tax folks to get a sense of whether they could use your assistance?

2.) Don’t play it small

There is a balance to strike between being appropriate and deferential to partners and senior associates (as the saying goes, seen and not heard) and being yourself with your personality and speaking up from time to time.  For example, do not be afraid to voice your contrary opinion and step into the limelight (at a meeting, on a call, etc.) when you have something worthwhile and thoughtful to say.

3.) Act as if you intend to make partner 

Give more to your partners then they ask for.  Exceed minimum billing requirements.  Affirmatively seek feedback and take action to work on the areas identified.  Participate in firm activities even if not required.  Some folks choose not to read Making Partner because they have no intention of Making Partner and as such do not think the advice provided will be helpful.  That rationale seems very shortsighted.  LegalJob encourages you to do all the things recommended in Making Partner and on the blog that you need to do to stay on the partnership track even if you do not want to be a partner because you can change your mind.  Or because, even if you decide to leave the firm or the law altogether, you want to put yourself in the best possible position to maximize your future opportunities, including being in a position to obtain glowing recommendations, referrals from others, etc.).

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