Gary Mitchell's Biz/Dev Coaching Blog
Going beyond business development and your ability to generate work, there are a couple of considerations you should think about if you’re looking to get on or speed up the ‘Partner Track’. The first consideration is to learn how to play well with others. Here I am referring to everyone with whom you come into contact on a daily basis; your assistant, paralegals, IT professionals, receptionists, firm management, marketing, library services, etc. Go out of your way to treat these people with the utmost respect and watch how in turn they will over perform and deliver for you. You will not become successful in your career without their support. So when they go out of their way for you, acknowledge their efforts. Take them out to lunch from time to time. Ask them how they would like to contribute. Find out how you can help them achieve their career goals by first understanding what they are. Treat them as you do your clients. In other words get to know them as much as possible.
Giving back to the firm
By this I am referring to what can you do outside your practice to provide value to your firm. Consider answering these questions as a place to start:
- What committees can you be on and contribute to?
- Are their opportunities for you to mentor a summer or articling student, or even an associate more junior then you?
- What can you do outside the walls of your firm in the community to better position your firm?
Follow this advice and you are more likely to become a partner at your firm.
The other day working with one of my clients, she brought up a subject that has started to give her some stress, how to prepare for her maternity leave. She had already identified three key issues: Internal administration, Internal partner relationships, and f course how to proceed with her clients.
She already knew she needed a plan, so that is where we began. By the time she has to announce to her partners, she will have had everything well thought out, identified where they may have issues and be able to answer to them, and have a detailed approach to client development and management while she is away.
If you are in this situation, or thinking you may be, do you have a plan?
Just off a call with a client who is coordinating a new sub-practice group. She told me how un-eventful their first meeting was and that no one had yet volunteered to take various roles on. My first bit of advice to her was to look for people to take on tasks based on ability and desire rather than seniority. If others push back, be more than open to receiving input and help from them, but be sure to set hard deadlines.
The other advice was to do some one-to-one advocating ahead of the next meeting to get her ‘soldiers’ in place, other people willing to take on leadership or accountability for some of the tasks at hand. This will give the perception of movement and others will eventually follow. When people start attending meetings that actually get things done, they will want to be a part of that movement.
The other day I was helping a client who has to navigate some pretty serious internal politics. Her issue is that she is doing great marketing work and creating wonderful opportunities. When she does, they are take away from her and given to someone else. It is frustrating her to no end and rightfully so.
I advised her to first take the soft approach going to her leaders and trying to find a solution where everyone can win. They didn’t take to that very well. So this limits how and where she is going to build her practice. While it provides challenges, it’s not impossible. Her new approach is to go full steam ahead and take all opportunities that are presented to her.
Building internal relationships is often just as imortant and lucrative as building external ones. If you are a junior, that is really your first client development step is to get to know more of the senior lawyers in your firm. Let them know that you would be interested in working for them. Take them out for lunch and pic their brain. Then when you get the work, make sure you do an outstanding job.
There are several ways associates can leverage the experience, reputation, work load and knowledge of senior partners. The first thing to mention is that you have to be proactive. Don’t wait for them to come to you-they have their own practice and life to worry about and are not likely sitting at their desk thinking of ways to help you. So if it’s work you are after, make a point of walking the halls everyday and popping into their offices to see what they are working on. I have heard that if you bug them enough they will throw you a file just to get rid of you.
If you are looking to raise your profile and don’t think you have enough experience to write an article, approach a partner to co-write it with you. (Meaning you do all the work and they edit it and add their name to it along side yours). You still get the name recognition and profile raising as well as experience getting published.
If you don’t have a mentor or you don’t get along well with your assigned mentor, look for someone who you would work better with and make the request. This is your career. Be more proactive in getting what you want.
I was recently speaking with a former client Partner and we were discussing the need for associates to be more aggressive in getting in front of partners. He suggests going to see three partners every day. Ask them what they are working on? What are they finding of interest? The point here is to ask them so many questions that they end of giving you some work to get rid of you. Then do great work in a timely fashion and watch for more to come across your desk. This follows my opinion that associates should be a lot more aggressive and proactive in building their careers. Don’t wait for them to come to you.