Five Ways To Impress Law Partners: An Associate’s Guide To Success

1. Arrive early.

The easiest way to impress a law firm partner is to be present when he or she needs you. Not only do you avoid awkward cricket chirping for lack of conversation when you meet unexpectedly in the elevator, but you will also demonstrate your enthusiasm for and dedication to the firm by arriving early.

If an equity partner is confident that you’ll answer the phone when he or she calls in the morning, the same partner will be more inclined to approach you for extra assistance, new projects, or—alas—that coveted promotion in the future.

2. Maintain a tidy desk.

First and second-year associates are at the bottom of the law firm food chain (and doc review pile). Still, that’s no reason to keep an untidy desk.

Scattered papers and piles of folders do not make an associate appear busier than the next. Rather, clutter only succeeds in making an associate seem incompetent. In an industry where the appropriate presentation of details and evidence is key, disorganization will only contribute to an associate’s downfall.

For that matter, display one or two personal items on your desk. Nothing says work-place confidence and loyalty like an associate who is equipped to stay put.

3. Dress like a lawyer.

There’s a reason Hollywood always dresses female attorneys in crisp white blouses and pearls. The impact of “power suits” is self-evident. Powerful, professional, serious lawyers dress for the part.

Whether in front of the courtroom or working in the back office, impress your superiors with an attitude to match your wardrobe. You’ll soon find that internal qualifications are taken as seriously as a person’s outer-manner of dress.

4. Answer more than the question asks.

An employee who not only completes the assigned task, but also anticipates where the next steps lead will get noticed.

After every assignment, ask yourself “why is this important to the case?” and “what do these results imply?” Even if your analysis is off the mark, your superiors will admire your ambition to go further with the investigation than what was asked.

At the same time, don’t take too long. The managing partner won’t be pleased if you bill the client for nonessential hours.

5. Summarize and speak up.

When asked into the office of a firm partner, bring your yellow legal pad and pen. Jot down the minutia of the assignment, specifically any dates or deadlines mentioned.

At the end of the conversation, summarize (in one sentence) what you plan to do once you leave his or her office. An example might be, “I will provide you with a list of links to ten journal articles that discuss ornamental birdcages by Wednesday, November 15.”

If you have further questions, speak up! Worse than messing up is missing the point of an assignment. It wastes firm time and client money, as well as tries a partner’s patience.

Keep in mind that if a law firm partner or senior attorney objects to a few clarification questions, you haven’t failed the firm—it’s failing you.



Learn about what law firm partners can do to effectively mentor their associates here, “Investing In First-Year Associates: They’re Worth It.”


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