“Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald
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:
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.
James N. Watkins
Shannon L. Alder
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!
“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