My typical week involves a fair amount of time working in law firms. This time allows me not only to appreciate how a firm works on a regular basis, but it also allows me to build relationships with attorneys and staff. I frequently talk with attorneys about ways that they can grow their practice and become more valuable to the firm. I would like to share a few fundamentals of attracting work assignments that in my experience make a big difference.
Talent and Motivation
Talented lawyers enjoy an advantage, at least initially. Talented and motivated lawyers typically enjoy the best growth opportunities. More often than not this also proves true for attorneys working in firms that suffer from systemic or individual partner issues that impede attorney progress. More simply, talent coupled with motivation tends to insulate one from the various environmental factors that exist in many firms. Struggling lawyers are more likely in an incompatible role rather than suffering from a talent deficiency.
Partners, like clients, tend to take the path of least resistance. If assigning an attorney work is complex or difficult, then that attorney usually starves. If, on the other hand, assigning work to an attorney with the right talent level is easy and coupled with appreciation for the opportunity, then that attorney is normally fully employed. Misapplied talent with a great attitude will carry a person a long way, but the role must also work.
Talent with a good approach is a great start, but being able to perform under high pressure in terms of time and/or importance, and without detriment to work product is unique. The most valuable attorneys are those capable of performing in ambiguous situations, possess an ability to anticipate different outcomes, learn to understand how an assignment fits into the whole of the process and with minimal supervision. Talent alone will not overcome the pressure aspects of the job. Developing these skills takes a lot of practice, intellectual curiosity and some risk taking.
Talented attorneys who are in the right role and who are able to master these skill sets are virtually unstoppable. Partners will want to send them work and, more importantly, clients will want partners to send them work. Clients will send them work directly, and anyone with law firm experience knows what that means.