Interpersonal skills/making partner

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starry eyed
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Interpersonal skills/making partner

Postby starry eyed » Mon Dec 01, 2014 5:42 pm

I realize this is a controversial question, especially on this forum. But for those THAT ARE ALREADY IN BIGLAW, I'm wondering what the primary factor is that goes into making partner. Does this quality of work you do as an associate matter as much as your ability to get the partners in charge of promotion to like you? Do the partners know who they are going to promote from day one, and who they are gonna use as work monkeys? I know biglaw is dominated by old white men, and being from "upper class" Mississippi, I completely understand how cronyism works. I assume that the "potential" to one day bring in clients is not determined by how many billable hours you put in. But obviously that's a necessary condition for any associate to remain in the game.

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ExBiglawAssociate
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Re: Interpersonal skills/making partner

Postby ExBiglawAssociate » Mon Dec 01, 2014 8:06 pm

Not flame: I was recently told by someone on the partnership evaluation committee at our firm that interpersonal skills, as they relate to business generation, are the primary factor my firm considers when determining whether someone should make partner. Now, you could bake a lot of stuff into that statement, including the fact that someone is probably not going to make partner unless they are an expert in a particular field of law and, therefore, conversational in that field. But the fact remains: you're not going to make partner at my firm if people don't like you.

PwnLaw
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Re: Interpersonal skills/making partner

Postby PwnLaw » Thu Dec 04, 2014 5:23 am

By way of background: I practiced in BigLaw for a period. During that time, I built an unusually large book of business for an associate. I was informed early on that the firm was interested in keeping me around. I ultimately left to pursue start-up shenanigans. I liked my firm a lot, I just more interested in other pursuits (Millenials ftw).

Anyways, my thoughts: Early on, people are just trying to survive. You survive by being perceived as competent. Competence will carry you pretty far in a law firm, but it won't get you to partnership. If you're going to make partner, you're going to need to do one of three things: (1) show a high potential for bringing in clients, (2) become indispensable to indispensable clients, or (3) become uniquely competent in a highly specialized field such that you can provide value as a service partner.

Generally, the people with strong interpersonal skills have issues surviving. Law weeds them out. Early on, there just isn't a lot of value in a person who is a smooth talker but a crappy researcher. Most smooth talkers get frustrated that they aren't being valued for their interpersonal skills and leave. However, if you manage to make it through the grind, and start bringing in clients you'll certainly be noticed. Rainmaking was the only path I considered acceptable, but that's mostly because I didn't want to be beholden to other people within the firm.

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ExBiglawAssociate
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Re: Interpersonal skills/making partner

Postby ExBiglawAssociate » Fri Dec 05, 2014 1:46 am

I think a lot of it depends on the culture of your firm. (BTW, the people who say all law firms have the same culture or that all law firms are the same are at law firms with shitty cultures.)

Some firms (like mine) put a very high premium on interpersonal skills. Others, not so much. God help you at you work at one of the latter firms.

Finding people to bring in business and be experts in legal fields is easy when you pay them as much as the partners make at my firm. Making sure they all have good interpersonal skills is a bit harder, but totally worth it in my opinion.




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