Tag Archives: associates

What’s Your Firm’s Associate Compensation Model & Should You Change It?

Working as a first-year associate in a law firm used to be simple–painful, but simple. There was lengthy, tedious document review and paying your dues (literally and figuratively).

But today, the job has become much more complicated. Firms are dissatisfied with the traditional compensation model for younger associates and are looking to leverage more out of each one. Numerous law firms have completely thrown out the old hierarchical, lockstep model of associates and replaced it instead with a merit-based one.

Keeping your head down and listening to what the name partners tell you is no longer enough. Associates are now evaluated on going above and beyond, on “delivering legal excellence,” “driving client value” and “building a practice,” in the words of Seyfarth’s merit-based pay system.

“It takes the process off of autopilot, so we’re really dependent upon getting feedback from partners,” Laura Saklad, the chief lawyer development officer for Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, one of the first firms to ditch former lockstep models for associate pay, said to Law360.

“We have found that moving away from an automatic advancement system has actually created a greater buy-in among the partners for the need to give really substantive answers.”

Although this system of constant evaluation may seem stressful to associates, law firm managers believe merit-based pay not only improves performance and productivity, it also helps increase communication between associate levels.

“We’re putting a lot of energy into ensuring that we have a strong mentoring program in place and that mentoring conversations are happening in between reviews so associates are getting clear messages about where there are skill gaps and how to fill them,” Saklad said to Law360.

With these types of compensation systems, it’s impossible to simply dismiss a performance review or to forget to follow-up in a matter. Associates must make the grade in order to make the pay. This requires diligently listening to areas where your performance is weak and then making concerted efforts to improve those skills.

Although there appear to be many benefits to such a system, what are its downsides?

First, it certainly encourages competition, not comraderie among same-level associates. Second, it’s a more difficult system for larger firms. Finally, it may reward favoritism. Should an associate receive a lackluster review beause he or she has a less dynamic personality? Is there such a thing as a completely objective evaluator, and if not, should pay really be tied to such a subjective measure?

Reed Smith, the large Pittsburgh-based law firm, announced a similar restructuring of its policies with regard to associate performance and promotion, stating:

“The firm has revamped its associate model, doing away with associate classes based strictly on entry date in favor of three associate groups that will have formal training from the time they enter the firm until they are ready to be considered for partnership. . . . The goal of the program is to provide a road map for associates detailing the specific skills required at each of the newly created levels–junior, midlevel, and senior associates. Associates won’t be able to move to the next tier until they have met those requirements. Compensation will be tied to those competencies by 2011 as well.”

Changes in traditional associate compensation models are here to stay. The question is, in the land of billable hours and time constraints, do these law firms have the capabilities to successfully implement such large-scale, high-stakes training programs?

A lot is being blamed on the economic crisis. Will new associates ever be as profitable for the firm as they were before the economic downturn? The answer is yes. But, to return to pre-crisis levels of profitability, law firms need to adapt to the current situation. It involves new technology, new tools, new management, and new ways of motivating your employees.

Revamping the Associate Model for Max Profitability: Leveraging New Lawyers for Higher Per Partner Profits is an information-packed webinar that examines the strategic and financial implications of the changing associate model, and what law firms should do to stay competitive and profitable in this rapidly shifting environment.

Attend Wedesday, September 3, 2014, from 2pm to 3:15pm EST and explore current associate management trends, new compensation systems, and other key aspects of associate management that impact your firm’s bottom line:

  • Where we are today and what has changed
  • Emerging economic models and how they affect associate profitability
  • New profitability drivers for 2014 and beyond
  • Trends and changes to the associate management process
  • Real-life firm examples of how to monitor associate’s progress and performance
  • Best practices for handling the first two years
  • Methods to make the associate evaluation process matter more
  • Why versatility matters when it comes to associate advancement and how to build it in to your programs
  • Common associate communication snafus and how to fix them

Trust experts like The Center for Competitive Management when you’re looking to upgrade your law firm management style. 

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How To Successfully Manage Millennials At Your Firm

If only you could get inside the heads of your law firm employees. It would surely make hiring decisions, salary negotiations, and case work easier.

For your Millennial employees, however, there is some good news. Because the younger generation believe that technology is near and dear to their very existence, managers can actually take a look—via blog, facebook, or twitter posts—at the this generation’s thought process.

Here are a few generalizations about Millennials (and how your firm can respond to them).

1. Millennials are looking to be the best at something… but something meaningful.

Millennials have read Malcolm Gladwell’s popular book, Outliers: The Story of Success and know that to become an expert you need to put in 10,000 hours. But, these days, it’s not enough to be an expert on a subject, Millennials want to work toward a higher goal.

Whether it be humanitarian, technological, or constitutional, Millennials are looking for a purpose for these 10,000 working hours.

Law firms should engage their younger employees in pro-bono work right off the bat. Encourage them to work for your firm’s foundation. Give extra time off to employees who volunteer at places outside the practice.

Through impromptu or informal interviews, ask your younger associates what motivates them to work in law or life. A happier employee is a more productive one.

And, although law school graduates are a dime a dozen, the ones worth keeping at your firm, that million-dollar legal mind, may not be as common.

2. Millennials are good at networking… and they like it

Millennials graduated in a difficult economic climate, and they unabashedly networked and made phone calls and sought out persons to hire and help them.

Millennials know the value of networking, and they do it well. So take advantage of this quality. Encourage your employees to attend legal networking events. Host happy hours and social events for friends and family of your employees. Find out who they are and what they do (and if they need representation).

Give incentives for recommending new hires. In general, tap into this resource. People enjoy doing favors and, in the end, are more likely to do favors for somebody they’ve previously helped (say, a manager or senior partner). It’s called the Ben Franklin effect.

In his autobiography, Franklin explains how he dealt with the animosity of a rival legislator when he served in the 18th century Pennsylvania legislature:

Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of perusing that book, and requesting he would do me the favour of lending it to me for a few days. He sent it immediately, and I return’d it in about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of the favour. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death.

3. Millennials are looking for mentorship… and you should give it to them

Self-help books are popular with Millennials. They’re reading The Happiness Hypothesis, by Jonathan Haidt; How to Find Fulfilling Work, by Roman Krsnaric; and The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter, by Meg Jay.

Everybody needs a role model, from the small school-age child to the adult working-class parent. We need somebody to look up to. The workplace is no different.

To give your law firm a sense of purpose, to encourage networking, and to instill a culture of teamwork and community, create “hiring classes” or groups of new hires that get trained together.

Organize a week or two-week long training camp so that new employees meet one another, bond, and generally become attached to their work. Each new hire in this class should be assigned a mentor. Make sure that more senior mentors meet with the younger associates. By doing this, your firm will create a supportive, family-style culture, which will help retain your Millennial employees.

These steps will also encourage new associates to ask questions, which reduces mistakes and increases the productivity of your office.

You may not relate to the Millennial mindset, but you should try to understand it.

The business of law has changed dramatically. Firms of all sizes are under more pressure than ever to overcome fee resistance, deliver added value, and secure decreasingly loyal clients.

Tune in to The Center for Competitive Management (C4CM)’s audio conference on Thursday, September 11, 2014, titled “Top Five Profit-Killing Business Development Mistakes Firms Make, and How To Avoid Them.”

This power-packed webinar explores how successful firms are building cultures in which business development, cultivating relationships, and clear rainmaking goals increase revenue per lawyer and overall profitability, including:

  • When and how to begin business development training
  • Methods to include meaningful client contact for every lawyer (including first year associates)
  • What constitutes practical training and which efforts are a waste of firm time
  • The mentoring key and how firms are flubbing it
  • How to teach attorneys to see and address the profit potential of every relationship
  • Pros, cons and considerations of offering billable credit for lawyers who spend time developing rainmaking skills
  • A step-by-step outline for building a firm culture that promotes business development (with a defined path and essential steps for successful communication, engagement, and rewards)

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Success, A State Of Mind & 5 Things To Make You Better At Your Job Today!

Being “successful” is a state of mind. It doesn’t matter if you feel overlooked by your boss, underestimated by your colleagues, or even underprepared for the work required. There’s only one person who is stopping you from succeeding today: y-o-u.

Just can’t manage to get ahead?

Always feel like you’re behind?

Feeling too old for the job at hand?

Reframe your mindset today with these five simple steps and see better performance instantly:

1. Know your best asset

Everybody has one asset by which they excel. Perhaps you’re a quick writer. Maybe you’re a “people person.” Whatever that skill is, hone it (and own it!).

Make yourself indespensible for this asset. For example, if you have a great personality for handling and selling new business to the firm, ask to be a part of business development. Go out and find new clients just by being your best personable self.

Are you good with computers? Interact with the IT department and pitch new software or tech ideas to improve the efficiency of your firm’s practice.

Write down your talent on a sticky note and look at it everyday. Reminding yourself brings a can-do attitude, even when the hump of Wednesday is hard to get over.

2. Make daily task lists

Some people think lists are a waste of time. You know exactly what you need to do today, why waste valuable billable hours on a list?

Lists help everyone organize their daily activies by importance. It’s not enough to understand the tasks, you must also seperate those that are urgent and those that are not. Associates often start their day with easy tasks–the ones you can do quickly. It feels great to cross them off your list, right?

Wrong. Start your day with the most urgent tasks. This way you’ll stop procrastinating and start prioritizing.

3. Create (and complete) one goal a day

Now that you know what your daily tasks are, look at your schedule and make a goal for the day. Don’t make broad, long-term goals like, you will finish that brief or file that motion.

Focus on immediate issues that are manageable for the day. For example, you will finally schedule a group meeting about a client matter. Or, you will read and then respond to each of your emails (that you’ve let sit for a few days already).

By creating and comleting one simple goal each day, you will find you go home more satisfied with your performance, which is vital to job satisfaction.

4. Take care of your personal items

Yes, just like it’s important to complete one professional goal each day, it’s important to fulfill a personal one, as well.

Find the time at lunch or before 9am to take care of a personal matter–whether it’s finally organizing childcare for the weekend or looking up the time for a spin class at your gym for after work. 

It’s difficult to concentrate on work when there are personal tasks hanging over your head. By taking the time out of work to carry out a personal task, you will go to the office refreshed and refocused. You will also have something to look forward to later–a night out with friends, dinner with a spouse, or an overdue restful, child-free weekend!

5. Grow as a professional

Yes, you’ve organized your agenda, created a managable work-life balance, and gone home with a sense of pride in your work for the day. But, what skills or talents have your developed to become a better you in the future?

Just like you should be aware of your own natural abilities to succeed, you should be aware of your shortcomings, too. Work on areas where you’re weakest. Say, making use of technology available at your firm, or communicating with subordinate employees. Maybe you haven’t tried to improve on those things pointed out to you in your last professional evalutation.

Learn a new language. Get certified in a new technical skill. Attend a professional conference in your free time on behalf of your firm.

Today, do something new in order to grow into the best you tomorrow.

Are you a law firm manager who needs to get this message about employee empowerment across to your troops?

Do you face unimaginable pressure to streamline costs, improve profitability, and do more work with fewer employees?

In order to be successful in today’s harried corporate culture, you need to master the critical skills and competencies required for building and maintaining a productive and profitable workplace. Productivity is a powerful tool, that when harnessed correctly can help you address daily stressors, improve cooperation, complete tasks on-time, and sharpen your company’s competitive edge. Sign up now for The Center for Competitive Management (C4CM)’s audio course on Tuesday, September 30, 2014 from 3pm EST to 4:15pm EST:

Smart Manager’s Guide to Building a Productive Workplace: 10 Proven Strategies to Boost Personal and Employee Productivity

This interactive, practical and effective event, explores 10 proven tips to boost personal and employee productivity. During this information-packed session, you will learn how to: Build a workplace atmosphere that encourages cooperation, productivity,Better enable employees to do their work, without excessive oversight, andRemove common obstacles that prevent productivity. Learn more about it here.

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Get A Better Boss By Being A Better Employee: Strategies To Combat Office Favoritism

At home, parents play favorites. In the office, bosses do, too. But being the boss doesn’t have to mean being a bully.

Employers can’t help but judge a person on personality (in addition to skillset, ability, or pedigree). And, those associates who have more in common in terms of sports teams, school mascots, hobbies, and family will likely form de facto alliances at the firm. Problems arise when those alliances form between a boss and a subordinate. As a result, other—often equally capable—employees receive less praise, less attention, and less interesting work.

Unsurprisingly, this idea is more than a suspicion. Data from a recent study, conducted by a leadership development consultancy and published by the Harvard Business Review Blog, confirms that there is such a thing as the boss’s favorites.

“And while, in any disagreement we inevitably find both parties bear part of the fault—that is, the disgruntled employees do certainly play some role in their own unhappiness—we consistently found in the analysis that their complaints were justified,” writes Joseph Folkman for the HBR Blog in the article, “Are You Creating Disgruntled Employees?

“Their managers were in fact treating the disgruntled employee differently than they treated their very satisfied employees.”

Surprisingly, however, both managers and employees can get back in one another’s good graces once again. With a few changes in behavior and attitude, managers can boost the performance of their most disgruntled associates.

In turn, disgruntled associates do play a role in their own happiness at work. Become the boss’s new favorite by increasing open and honest communication. Leaders in the office, according to the aforementioned study, need to:

1. Encourage employees more.

The study focused on the six percent of people in the database of 160,576 employees who displayed the lowest levels of job satisfaction and commitment on their 360 evaluations of their bosses. When this six percent was asked to name the skill that they thought was most important for their boss to demonstrate, the top response was “Inspire and motivate others.”

From a manager’s perspective, it’s far more rewarding to focus on the career development of the most receptive and happy employees in the bunch. Working over and over to inspire those who have poor attitudes or performance feels draining. In fact, negative attitudes tend to be contagious.

However, it’s for this reason that leaders need to work harder to encourage any disgruntled associates. Ignoring the problem will just compound it and increases employee dissatisfaction. What’s more, the aforementioned study indicates that when bosses treat their disgruntled employees like everyone else—as if they show equal promise—the employees’ performance and behavior quickly improves.

2. Take an interest in associate development.

“If a person works hard and gets a pay check he has a job. But if a person works hard, gets a pay check, and learns a new skill, she has a career,” sagely writes Folkman.

Bosses play favorites when they focus career development strategies solely on the high-potential associates. Unfortunately, everyone else is left to drown in their wake. Call these employees underachievers, disgruntled, inept. But, the reality is your firm is a team. If you expect the worst from your associates, you’ll get it.

Take interest in the career development of every employee. You’ll create a more well-rounded legal team, as well as dispel any rumors that you play favorites. Becoming a beloved leader will inspire more productivity and happiness among subordinates.

From these conclusions, disgruntled employees—or, at least, those associates who are not among the boss’s favorites—ought to:

3. Listen to other associates.

There may be a reason you are not among the boss’s favorites. You are that underperformer, underachiever, and generally disgruntled employee.

Have you heard people say you have a bad attitude? Do other employees tend to bypass your office whenever they’re looking to discuss last night’s ball game? Listen to what other associates are talking about. If your personal interests hold you back from being the favorite, it’s time to weigh in.

“Managers go to lunch more with people they like, our data show; they talk with them more socially (about children, sports, etc); they know them more personally. This is natural, surely, but so are the feelings of exclusion it creates among the less favored,” Folkman explains about the study results.

“A small effort by managers to spread their attention around more broadly can go a long way here.”

And, a small effort by employees to endear their managers can also go a long way.

4. Give feedback, in addition to taking it gracefully.

It turns out, a major complaint of the bottom six percent of the study was that bosses did not give them honest feedback. Instead, bosses wrote “You’re coming along fine,” or other innocuous comments in regard to performance. When you find yourself faced with a disingenuous review—or even just a generic one—ask questions. Seek further feedback. Not only will your boss perceive this as a increased interest in the job, but she will also likely appreciate your honesty and return it.

But, that being said, be prepared for negative remarks. Listen and accept gracefully. Then, ask how you can improve. Furthermore, give feedback about your boss’s leadership skills. Ask for more one-on-one mentorship. Don’t wait for an anonymous study to show that they play favorites–let them know you’d like to be one by seeking more work responsibility and building trust.

This year, make favoritism by your boss work to your favor.

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Millennial Employees Not Lazy After All? New Study Suggests Firms Should Give More Vacation To Employees

They say millennial employees are lazy—is it true?

As much as forty percent of millennial employees reported feeling guilty for using their vacation time, as opposed to just 18 percent of baby boomers, according to a recent study by Randstad (via Forbes).

So, does this mean baby boomers are lollygagging on the beach? Not really.

In fact, both baby boomer and millennial employees seem to be glued to their phones for work even on vacation. Almost half (42%) of employees reported feeling obligated to check their email during vacation, reports the same study by Randstad.

It seems millennial employees are, actually, concerned about their careers. Unfortunately, all this concern—both in the office and on the beach—is affecting productivity. By not taking a stress-free, work-free vacation, employees do not return to work “refreshed,” implies the Randstad study.

Returning to work “refreshed” is exactly why employers promote time off in the first place. What’s to be done?

“Studies about millennials always say there are four Fs this generation places before all else: fun, family, freedom, and friends,” said Jim Link, Randstad chief HR officer to Forbes.

“But then you look at this information that says these folks are on board more than any other generation, and don’t feel the need to delineate between work and life.”

At least one study seems to imply that millennials do prioritize their work life; in fact, they can’t seem to separate it from their recreational life. With all this talk of a work-life balance, for millennials, at least, this term can be modified to just “balance.”

Should employers, then, help their employees compartmentalize their life? Should managers encourage employees to turn their phones off after work and remain technology-free on vacation?

“Historically, up until the last 10 or 15 years, [work and home life] was much easier to separate. That’s just no longer the case. It’s become harder, technologically speaking, to really build that separation in,” said Link.

One way to return to the “good ole days” is to consider building work-life separation into workplace policies.

For example, lawyers notoriously take little vacation. And, many female attorneys feel pressure to return to work as soon as possible after giving birth.

Firms, as a result, should encourage lengthy maternal and paternal leave. Stress and fatigue are not just dangerous to a person’s health, they’re dangerous to the firm as they affect productivity and increase the likelihood of making mistakes.

Just like falling asleep at the wheel, exhaustion can be equally deadly to your firm’s most important cases.

Consider implementing an “on-call” system not unlike the medical profession. Make a few younger associates “on-call” for certain evenings. Circulate lists of who is available on which nights to senior managers and partners.

The system doesn’t have to be complicated, and maybe instead of “on-call”, your system would give associates just one night a week to be “off-call”.

However you decide to implement such a program, the relief an employee feels at knowing they do not have to answer calls or emails—even for one night alone—can become more relaxing than a week spent listening to ocean waves.

Also, don’t make your employees feel guilty for taking time off.  In this economic climate, reassure your staff that taking vacation time is not a downward spiral toward being laid off with policies that make a certain amount of annual leave mandatory.

Firms with creative and flexible policies regarding mental and physical helath, as well as time off, have happier, more productive, and loyal employees. In the end, that’s the kind of firm that attracts star talent and the most clients.

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Does Your Office Feel Like A War-zone? How To Successfully End Inter-Office Conflict

Nobody likes inter-office conflict—whether it’s disagreement between two employees or disagreement with a manager. Without resolving conflicts quickly, however, they can fester. Before you know it, the office feels like a war-zone and you’re looking for a cease-fire.

There are three major types of inter-office conflict, according to Ben Rabon in an article for weLEAD online magazine: (1) disputes over task responsibility; (2) disputes over how something should be done; and (3) disputes related to personality and work styles.

Because conflicts can lead to lower productivity, firms should work quickly to resolve disputes.

Your firm should have informal preferences and formal policies regarding employee reporting of workplace disputes.

First, it may sound counter-intuitive, but communicate your preferences, as a manager, for internal conflict management. For example, if two of your employees are in disagreement over task responsibility or how a task should be done, tell all of your employees that you prefer they work it out amongst themselves first.

In the event these two employees cannot reach an agreement, invite them to send you a joint e-mail, for example, explaining the situation. By expressing your preference for a joint e-mail, you are tacitly discouraging your employees from writing you numerous e-mails regarding the same topic or complaining about their peer.

In addition, by writing a joint e-mail, you are also encouraging these two employees to collaborate and cooperate—if only on a two-line memo—which is, after all, the root of their initial problem.

If this process breaks down, and these two employees are at such odds in terms of personality or working style that they cannot craft a simple e-mail, then it may be time for formal intervention. This is where formal policies regarding employee disagreement should be circulated.

These policies are generally straightforward in terms of written notice, formal meeting with a manager, and a note placed in personnel files. At this point you may need to make use of some conflict resolution skills. Rabon suggests the following five mediation steps:

  1. Air all viewpoints from both sides
  2. Clarify the problem and the interests involved
  3. Brainstorm solutions with both parties
  4. Help both sides reach agreements
  5. Be aware of your own bias and do not let it affect your ability to remain impartial

In many conflict resolution situations, the parties simply want to be heard. So, it’s important to be a good listener. Once all opinions are voiced, you are able—as a manager—to implement a solution and assign tasks how you see fit.

Don’t forget to explain your logic behind the decisionmaking.

Paradoxically, a recent study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that showing people extreme versions of their own ideas that confirmed (not contradicted) their opinions on a divisive subject actually led them to reconsider their stance. Simply put, by showing somebody that you agree with their opinion, it may actually make them more receptive of opposite points of view.

In this study, led by Eran Halperin, a psychologist at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel, researchers recruited over 150 Israelis and exposed half of them to video clips that related the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to viewpoints that the Israelis valued. Instead of trying to persuade the Israelis to change their opinion, they showed the study participants video clips consistent with their already established viewpoint.

“For example, the fact that they are the most moral society in the world is one of the most basic beliefs of Israeli society,” Halperin said to the Los Angeles Times. But, when researchers showed participants a video that claimed Israel should continue the conflict so that its citizens could continue to feel moral, people reacted angrily.

“You take people’s most basic beliefs and turn them into something that is absurd.”

The participants did not enjoy watching the clips, but, after numerous rounds of exposure over a period of months, participants’ attitudes on common political narratives, like the idea that Palestinians bear responsibility for continuing the conflict, softened considerably.

In the months leading up to the 2013 Israeli elections, participants reported almost a 30 percent increase in their willingness to reevaluate their position compared with participants in the control group. This shift persisted even a year after the study concluded, reports the L.A. Times.

In conflict, when you tell a person he or she is wrong, or try to convince them of your divergent point of view, you are often met with resistance. People become defensive when their ideas are questioned and can even become more extreme in their views of the same subject once challenged.

Although inter-office conflicts are far from being as divisive as Israeli-Palestinian politics, some of the same conflict resolution ideas may apply. When you disagree with one of your employees, try adopting their point of view first. See if you can’t get them to be more flexible on their own before you dictate your opposite personal agenda.

People just want to feel heard. And, most people are open to compromise. What they lack, however, is direction, management, and even a little compassion in this mediation process.

Interested in knowing more strategies to end inter-office conflict? Take The Center for Competitive Management (C4CM)’s course: Conflict, Criticism & Sensitive Subjects: How to Successfully Address Tough Topics at Work.

In this “how-to” webinar, you will learn specific strategies for:

  • Complaining to your boss (or about your boss)
  • Giving constructive feedback to colleagues
  • Bringing up those “sensitive” issues that people are afraid to mention
  • Why you need different “road maps” for bosses, coworkers, & employees
  • Seven questions you must answer to prepare for a difficult conversation
  • How to avoid surprises by “getting inside the head” of the other person

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10 Behaviors By Summer Associates That Should Make Your Firm Think Twice Before Hiring

Congratulations, you’re a summer associate. With the right attitude and work ethic, you may become a salaried lawyer one day!

Condolences to law firm managers. You have to deal with a bunch of 20-something interns who haven’t a clue (but think they do).

There’s a time for forgive and forget and there’s a time for strict standards. When it comes to your summer associates, pay close attention. With so much competition these days, there’s nor reason your firm shouldn’t have the best that law schools have to offer. The following 10 behaviors by summer associates should make firm partners think twice about hiring:

1. Makes a bad first impression

Some people make bad first impressions. That’s understandable for a cocktail party or date, but not a professional event. If your summer associate can’t make eye contact, circulate the office and shake hands with everybody, or shows up to work in wrinkly or inappropriate attire, imagine the first impression they’ll leave on a judge or jury. The air of incompetence is not in-style this summer.

2. Avoids social events

Most summer interns are afraid of drinking too much and making idiots of themselves in front to firm partners, but that’s no excuse to eschew work events. If your summer associates can’t even attend events mostly designed to make them feel welcome, what are they going to do when you ask them to attend important after-hours events with potential clients, or professional galas that look well on the firm? Avoiding social events may be a sign your intern has no room in his or her priorities for the firm.

3. Is slow to answer your emails or calls

This is a no-brainer. You need associates who are serious, hardworking, creative, and—well—constantly available. That’s the nature of the law, it never sleeps, and your inters (for the first few years, naturally) shouldn’t either.

4. Doesn’t get along with other associates or summer interns

Yes, it is a cut-throat process, getting a job offer. But, it’s probably a bad sign if one summer associate doesn’t seem to get along with all the rest. Sure, the group may have disparate personalities or work styles, but so does the firm. You need a team player, not a lone-wolf in this business.

5. Name’s unknown to the partner

There’s flying under the radar and not getting noticed at all. If none of the partners ever know a summer associate’s name, it’s likely this person either (a) didn’t have any noticeable achievements or accolades from colleagues, or (b) doesn’t know how to network. Either way, it’s not the type of lawyer your firm needs in this do-or-die industry.

6. Doesn’t respect the support staff

Associates shouldn’t just be known by partners, they should be liked by support staff, too. A summer associate is lower on the food chain than support staff. They’ve not been hired, they’re here on trial, and they haven’t earned their place at the firm. Any associate who treats support staff like subordinates has no respect for the food chain—which sometimes means doing nitty-gritty and menial work and certainty not scapegoating support staff.

7. Makes too many mistakes on documents

There should be a learning curve in legal work, especially for summer associates. But, you should start to be concerned when an associate shows too many mistakes. Already, summer interns are given the lowliest jobs, which means it shouldn’t be too difficult to handle. And, mistakes are a sign that an inter was too afraid (or too arrogant) to ask questions of a colleague or classmate. Simple spelling mistakes reflect a carelessness (or lack of technical skills) that your firm just can’t afford. Another thing that’s costly? Constantly re-checking the work of one of your lawyers. You’ve got to have faith that your associates know the answer, know where to look for the answer, or know the right questions to ask to get it from somebody else.

8. Constantly appears frazzled

This is a difficult job. There are long hours. If your associate already feels overwhelmed after a summer, you should question their stamina for the “real world” of the law.

9. Says “no” too often

There is a time and a place to say “no” to work. But, your summer internship is not one of them. Saying “no” too often may be a signal that an associate has eyed another senior attorney or partner and plans on exclusively working for them, which means when hired, it will be more of the same. Or, saying “no” might signal poor organizational skills, where the associate is incapable of multitasking or managing his or her workload. Either way, take note of the person who says “no” too often.

10. Lacks social media or technical skills

Today there’s no excuse for poor PowerPoint skills or lack of Excel knowledge. Even law firms can’t get far without a website or social media presence. These are not skills left to the support staff. Rather, they represent the general willingness to progress and grow with the speed of new technology and a desire, on the part of an associate, to become more efficient and productive at what he or she does. You’d really have to go out of your way these days to lack such technical skills. And, as clients demand more innovative law firms, you can’t afford to hire one more traditionalist who favors to the yellow legal pad to an iPad.

As a manager you face unimaginable pressure to streamline costs, improve profitability, and do more work with fewer employees. In order to be successful in today’s harried corporate culture, you need to master the critical skills and competencies required for building and maintaining a productive and profitable workplace.

Take advantage of The Center for Competitive Management (C4CM)’s course on Friday, August 1, 2014, 11:00 EST to 12:15 EST, Smart Manager’s Guide to Building a Productive Workplace: 10 Proven Strategies to Boost Personal and Employee Productivity.

This interactive, practical and effective event, explores 10 proven tips to boost personal and employee productivity. During this information-packed session, you will learn how to:

  1. Build a workplace atmosphere that encourages cooperation, productivity,
  2. Better enable employees to do their work, without excessive oversight, and
  3. Remove common obstacles that prevent productivity.

Whether you’re a new manager, or have been in the trenches for years, this event will get you up to date on the latest productivity enhancement techniques for:

  1. Reaching quick and innovative decisions
  2. Reducing decision-making anxiety for you and your employees
  3. Holding timely meetings that remain true to a core purpose
  4. Making intelligent decisions by battling groupthink
  5. Brainstorming effectively

Plus, you’ll also learn which workplace productivity apps really work and how to get started using them today!

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