Making Partner is Just the Beginning

If you are in private practice, the goal very often is getting to the partnership table.  You work hard at your job, and you want this affirmation and the benefits that come with it, like higher salary, which can translate to a bigger house, a nicer car, better vacations, and preferred schools for your kids.

That is understandable.  Practicing law is no walk in the park much of the time, and you have your eye on the pay-off for all that hard work you have done as an associate.  You feel like you will see that pay-off once you are invited “to the show.”

But, not so fast.  Yes, there is huge gratification in going through the partnership gate, but the truth is that the hard work continues and the responsibilities increase.  You need to be ready for those realities and understand how to handle them.

I have written a lot about these subjects, and a recent Law360 article reminded me of my own advice to young lawyers.  I know you need to hear it from someone else as well, so here it is.

In this article titled The 5 Worst Mistakes a New Partner Can Make, author Carmen Germaine gives you good advice on how to avoid slipping up and jeopardizing your future as a young partner.  She quotes a legal ethics lawyer in explaining what making partner really means:

One of the tough things to realize is that for most lawyers, making partner isn’t crossing the finish line,” said Michael Downey, a legal ethics lawyer at Downey Law Group LLC. “It’s more like stages in the Tour de France where you’ve gone from the flat areas and now you’re headed into the hills.

Germaine has five areas of concern to share with you and posits them all as mistakes that you need to avoid.  They are:

  • Expecting Your Workload to Stay the Same;
  • Becoming Dispensable;
  • Neglecting Yourself;
  • Ignoring Your Finances; and
  • Failing to Act Like an Owner.

All of these are important, and I hope you take the time to read the article.

Stay tuned to the next blog to hear some of my own take on how to avoid these pitfalls.

 

 

 

 

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Thought For The Day

“A river cuts through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence.”

James N. Watkins

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Thought For The Day

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”

Anaïs Nin

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Thought For The Day

“When you are joyful, when you say yes to life and have fun and project positivity all around you, you become a sun in the center of every constellation, and people want to be near you.”

Shannon L. Alder

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To All The Law Graduates

This is a big week for all of the law school grads, including my own son.  I am so proud of him, and I will be the one cheering him on with an ear-to-ear grin on my face and so much pride in his accomplishments.  That is what Moms do.

I also am proud of all of you.  I do not have to know you personally to understand the hard work, the sacrifice, the daunting student loan payback facing you, and the uncertainty about your future.  It all comes with the territory, especially today when the economy is still recovering and the job market for new law grads continues to lag far behind where it was in the days before 2008.

These are true and important considerations, but do not let them put a cloud over your graduation celebration.  Be proud of yourself that you took the risk of going to law school when most of the people around you thought you were a little “off” for that decision.  As it turns out, the economy IS recovering, and hiring for new law school grads IS picking up.  There are fewer jobs, certainly, but there also are fewer grads to fill them.  Do the math and take a bow.  There is no evidence that you made a bad decision — as long as the law is your true calling.

You may have to try on several lawyer “hats” before you find the practice setting that feels most comfortable and suits you best.  You will have to listen to your heart and your mind and shut out the voices, the career goals, and the values of others.  Listen only to your own.  They are the ones that will lead to satisfaction and success in the law for YOU.

There are many ways to practice law to find career satisfaction and success.  For help in finding your true path, add my book Best Friends at the Bar: The New Balance for Today’s Woman Lawyer to your after-the-bar-exam-beach-reading list.  The book includes information about the kinds of practice settings to choose from and profiles twelve remarkable women lawyers, who have transitioned from private practice to other settings for very satisfying and successful careers.  However, I do not take any position on which practice setting is best for you.  That is your choice, and the book will help you make an informed choice over time.  And, it takes time.  Be patient.  Time is on your side.

Also, take a look at Beyond the Big Firm by Alan B. Morrison and Diane T. Chin.  Although the authors definitely take a position on your practice choice, the more information you have, the better.

First things first, however.  Now it is time to celebrate, celebrate and celebrate some more.  You deserve it!  Be just as proud of yourself as those special people who will come to see you graduate and share in your big day.  Like me, they will be grinning from ear to ear with love and pride.  They get it!  And so should you.

It is cool to be proud on graduation day!

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Thought For The Day

“When we treat man as he is, we make him worse than he is; when we treat him as if he already were what he potentially could be, we make him what he should be.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Thought For The Day

“The heart of a volunteer is never measured in size, but by the depth of the commitment to make a difference in the lives of others.”

DeAnn Hollis

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Adding Value Is Not Always a Good Thing for Women Lawyers

Is this a confusing title?  Probably.  That is because “adding value” can be a confusing.  Or rather, when to add value and when not to can be a confusing choice.  Let’s try to make it easier.

I discuss “adding value” in my book, Best Friends at the Bar: Top-Down Leadership for Women Lawyers (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2015).  It is a concept that most leaders do not understand, and there is a very good reason for that.  Most leaders think that they know everything about everything and that whatever they have to say on the subject needs to be said.

Not so much.  Consider this.  You are a leader in a law firm.  A junior lawyer comes to you with an idea that she thinks is a really good idea, and she is very excited about the possibilities.  Most often what you, the leader, does in response is to interrupt and wax prolific about all you know on the subject, how many times you have addressed the issue and how you can improve the idea of the junior lawyer.  If you think that approach is unproductive, you are right.  That kind of “adding value” is discouraging to the junior lawyer and most likely will be the beginning of a not-so-valuable relationship.

How about another approach?  You are a leader in a law firm, and the same young woman lawyer comes to you very excited about her idea.  You listen — yes, actually listen instead of speak.  You let this enthusiastic young woman talk about her idea and all of its nuances, and you LISTEN.  At the conclusion of her “sell,” you compliment her on her initiative and tell her that you hope she will continue this kind of innovative thinking.  You resist being the center of attention in favor of encouraging and mentoring a junior person.  If the idea needs improvement and refinement or further discussion, there is plenty of time for that once you have established the foundation that the idea is worthy of your consideration.

Leadership is difficult.  It means having the patience to listen, encourage and develop talent even if there are hundreds of pieces of paper on your desk that need attention. It means not needing to be in the spotlight all the time and putting someone else there to shine.

But, effective leadership pays off in spades.  It should never be overlooked.   Effective leaders know that and do not have to “add value” all of the time.  They have learned that much of what we say does not have to be said.  They have learned when to talk and when to listen.

For more on adding value, see this recent blog by my leadership mentor and the world-recognized leadership guru Marshall Goldsmith.  The comments of his C-Suite clients will help drive these concepts home beautifully.

Career Counselors, Law Firm Managers, Law School Educators, Law Students, Practice Advice, Young Lawyer | Comment