Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The steps to making partner at any law firm: Give up your personal life; indulging one's creative side is for losers

This is an excerpt from a book called "The Partner Track: How to Go From Associate to Partner in Any Law Firm" by Cliff Ennico, published in 2009 during the midst of the legal job market meltdown.  If only this grim bit of advice were as easy to comply with as it is to understand:

• “Make no mistakes” – Law firms work on “a demerit system.” Each mistake you make earns demerits. Accumulate too many and you never will make partner.

• “Live the law” – Junior associates have no personal life.

• “Cultivate your professional image” – Dress smartly and conservatively.

• “Start thinking like a partner” – That’s the only way to become one.

• “Position yourself for success” – Often, this means work in a profitable practice area.

• “Get your financial house in order” – You will earn good money as a young associate at a corporate law firm. Be frugal and save.

• “Manage your personal life for maximum advantage” – Make sure your non-work activities help you. Good: Become a member of a trade group relevant to the firm’s practice. Bad: Don’t join a “local theater company.” Lawyers do not have creative sides. And avoid pro bono work. Partners want you to work on the firm’s affairs.

• “Make no enemies” – They quickly can sabotage your efforts to make partner.

• “Get clients of your own” – Rainmaking is the one surefire way to become a partner.

• “Never let them see you sweat” – No one hires a lawyer who looks or acts scared.

After a few years of hard work, you will have a better idea of whether you want to stay at your firm and if you could make partner. Good signs: You work for crucial clients on prestigious, high-profile matters. You have constant access to clients. Bad signs: You work only for senior associates, not partners; you have no client contact. The associates give you only low-level assignments. If you are stuck, you may want to leave. By now, you have marketable experience. If your career is going nowhere after five or six years, make a move; job hunting from a position of strength will become increasingly difficult. Most associates do not become partners. Some become “permanent associates,” which brings increased job security and a respectable salary. In this role, you do not have to generate new business, yet you won’t become rich and your colleagues may “view you as a failure.” Accept this slot only as a “temporary expedient” until you find a better job. “Contract partners” also hold a between-jobs status. In this “salaried partner” role, you earn good money and you do not have to work the same number of billable hours as equity partners. Yet you quickly must meet certain goals to become an equity partner. If not, the firm may let you go at the end of your contract.

Synopsis courtesy of

Hat tip to Eric Young.


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