Law

As a managing partner, I’m always looking to find talent. Other than comp, what are associates really looking for in a firm? What will set a firm apart from others?

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Clear rules on whether or not drinking is allowed in the office.

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Flexibility with hours and work remote options. Willing to stand up to clients to set realistic deadlines so that all-nighters are rare

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I mean...associates really care about compensation. Fair compensation relative to the work. Paying less than BigLaw in exchange for work/life balance is a fair trade, but only if it actually exists.

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1. Good excellent learning experience: regular feedback, exposure to challenging tasks and working directly with partners. 2. Competent support staff and IT facilities (no skimping on the WestLaw subscription). 3. An environment which encourages critical thinking and individuality. Too many mediocre lawyers are promoted because they are agreeable. From observation, precocious associates dislike this environment. 4. Means for associates to give feedback on partners and work. This is also good for the firm: if you wish to weed out the unproductive and incompetent then it is best to ask the people who work under them.

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4. Especially. One sided reviews really do the firm a disservice. I know a number of great associates who have left after a few bad experiences with a couple partners. Never brought it up in their exit meetings. The firm loses great talent because of it and doesn’t even know it.

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Not pegging bonuses to collection, flexibility with hours, opportunities for career growth (showing them what their next 3-5 years will look like in the firm), sabbaticals every 5 years with the firm.

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Mentorship- but not the kind where the firm pairs you up and forces you to go to lunch once in a while. The kind achieved through having an open door, encouraging growth, constructive criticism, and fostering a relationship.

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Remote work options and communicating expectations frequently.

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Up to date software, especially trial/case notebook/transcript annotation if you do litigation

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Work life balance and remote work

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I’m now a partner, but when I was an associate, the things I was looking for were: 1) stability (the firm I left was losing about 10% or more partners per year, so the future was bleak) 2) fairness in promotions (my old firm paid/promoted based solely on the # of years practiced; I had a decent 6-figure book of business after 3-4 years with $0 in marketing budget, yet I was getting paid less than attorneys who had practiced for 2-3 more years who billed less, had much lower receipts, and no book of business 3) goes along with #2, but fair and reasonable path to partnership (I turned down a decent offer from a bigger firm because 40% of the criteria for becoming partner was based on your average billable rate compared to others. That is one the hardest aspects of a practice to influence as a lateral attorney coming into a firm. I felt that originations and sharing my own business with other attorneys to keep everyone’s plate full were more important) Great post!

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We’re are looking for mentorship and training, as well as a good work life balance. We want hands on experience and the ability to oversee our own cases (with partner supervision, of course). We want honest feedback and constructive criticism without the unnecessary yelling and condescending language. I love my job but I’m also a baby lawyer and I have no idea what I’m doing because there’s no training.

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See Associate 6 comment. Firm culture matters. And claims to a good mentorship culture need to be backed up by management’s commitment to incentivize partners to treat ALL the associates they work with (not just those perceived as stars) as mentees. Prospective hires are rightly skeptical of formal mentor programs.

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Clear guidelines on expectations starting out and realistic expectations regarding billable hours with regards to work. Also during the interview process have me speak with some of the other associates before i start.

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Matching 401k, autonomy where I can cone and go on my own schedule without feeling micromanaged, and nice fun people to work with.

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Opportunities for experience and a collaborative work environment. I’m at a small shop and I work closely with a partner day in and day out. He makes it a point for me to be involved in all aspects of our cases. I think that style will help me grow in my career. It helps that we get along very well.

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Hire people that can work and perform well together. Have in place policies that promote retention. Solid operations that make practice efficient, eg, forms and templates, computerized cases that are well organized etc. Be flexible. Pay well and give good raises. Cover costs for bar memberships, CLEs, attorney registration etc. Open door policy. Collegial environment. Foster growth in practice and business development. Provide access to resources. Nice office space with good coffee and snack options. Promote work/life balance.

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Good benefits too.

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Updated technology and software, ability to work remotely, 401k match.

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I’m kind of surprised by all of the love for remote work options. My firm has a pretty good remote server setup, in that I can log in anywhere and the computer looks exactly like my office desktop and I have access to everything, but I am so much more efficient with all of the bells and whistles of the office. Doing anything on my laptop now makes me want to throw it through a wall. I’m either broken or you all just have sick home office setups with space ship sized monitor stacks at home, lol.

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A11 has the right idea. I have a wide screen monitor and dual screen it with my personal laptop. External keyboard and mouse. All in, the setup cost me under $200 (excluding the laptop). I don't notice any drop in efficiency from being in the office. Trying to just use the laptop for anything other than minor edits or sending emails is incredibly frustrating though.

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To answer OP though: investing in an associate’s business development. I know I have a lot to learn re the practice, but I’m also a reasonably good lawyer (4th year) in the sense that I can write and argue and depose and run a file/mediation/trial etc. What I’m clueless on is client development/firm marketing, so I very much appreciate that my partners go out of their way to send me to conferences and client dinners and the like. They pull me in on conference calls with their clients, and have me running point so they can develop a comfort level with me. Its been illuminating to see what they do, as I start rubbing elbows with the people that could eventually constitute a book of business.

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You can also get referrals from colleagues, eg, colleagues with whom you interact on matters, by becoming an active bar association member etc. Giving talks on topics is another way to get referrals.

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Organization and top down leadership. Lot of firms are full of brilliant lawyers who couldn’t lead a starving camel to a lake 6 feet away. And this causes chaos for associates. Not saying folks need to be General Eisenhower on the eve of D-Day or anything, but things such as basic mentoring, ensuring there are standard procedures in place for basic tasks so things don’t need to be re-done ten times etc.

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