THESE REALITIES IN MIND
By Alexandra Duran
New York Law Journal
February 7, 2005
Congratulations on making partner. You have achieved
a long-term goal, one that is a milestone in your career and in
your life. Choose to be thrilled, and celebrate your success.
While you are celebrating, however, don't forget your support staff
members. Celebrate with them. Noting the hard work, determination
and savvy of everyone who has contributed will rebound to your ongoing
success as a new partner. Missing the opportunity to include, appreciate
and acknowledge their contributions to your accomplishment can have
a long-lasting detrimental effect. Whatever you do to celebrate
success — flowers, a champagne toast, small gifts, or a dinner
out — do it now! A tangible remembrance that can be kept conspicuously
and can therefore be appreciated by others in the office is a smart
What's Next After Celebrating?
Even as you celebrate, you may be feeling nervous about the future.
Or perhaps you are feeling a bit of a let-down as you go from "striving
mode" to "what's next?"
At this time your emotions may be running the gamut. During the
better part of the last decade, you've been an associate. Now, you
have left one group and have joined another. Until you acclimate
to your new role, you may feel adrift. Now is the time to make a
conscious transition to your new role as partner.
Resist defaulting into past patterns that are more comfortable just
because you know them best. They will not serve you well in the
Many of the skill sets, attitudes and behaviors that helped you
succeed as an associate will continue to drive your success; however,
you will need to develop new skill sets, attitudes and behaviors
to succeed as partner. I know firsthand. In my practice, I've met
many new partners who had difficulty making this transition. Understanding
the speed bumps, negotiating the hairpin turns, and setting a course
for your continuing growth is part of the challenge.
See You in a Different Light
You have worked right alongside of associates who now see you in
a different light. For some, you are a positive role model for succeeding
in grasping the gold ring. For others, you have gone over to the
dark side. Whether the karma is good or bad, from your perspective,
there can be no more grousing about assignments or workload, and
certainly no gossiping with these same associates.
During this transition, avoid making regrettable remarks that are
not generous or positive. These "sound bites," often made
in passing to alleviate anxiety, become indelible statements of
the "truth" for everyone else.
Associates will try to read your every move, perhaps even assuming
that you are privy to all the details of the management of your
firm. Your comments going forward — even if they have only
a momentary consequence for you — will have impact on how
associates perceive you, the firm, and their own standing, so be
judicious in what you say. You now represent the partnership and
the firm in everything you do, inside as well as outside of the
firm. (In reality, this has always been true, but now, everyone
is acutely aware of it.)
You Need to Set New Goals
Now that you've accomplished the goal of becoming
a partner, it's time to set new goals. Your long-term goals should
be based on an objective evaluation of your specific interests and
Determine what your long-term goals are for yourself within the
partnership. Do you aspire to become a member of the firm's management
committee or leadership team? Do you want to take a leadership role
in another area of the firm — for instance, expanding the
use of technology, growing a practice area, or expanding the firm
Develop your interests, research the opportunities, and start to
make a plan that you can ultimately present to a senior partner
or firm committee.
Let It Rain
Don't fall into the trap of labeling yourself a "service partner"
as opposed to a rainmaker. In addition to providing the very best
in client service, all partners should set their sights on developing
new client relationships and bringing in new business. In a competitive
environment, developing business for your firm is important to your
long-term success. If you haven't a clue on how to make rain, then
If the prospect of putting yourself out there in this way is terrifying,
relax — you need not be gregarious but can do it in your own
style. Take the time to engage in activities that will expand your
network, such as joining an outside committee, becoming active in
a professional association, or taking a leadership role in a nonprofit.
Commit to authoring an article for a professional publication or
speaking at a professional conference. And don't underestimate the
importance of widening your social network, whether on the golf
course or dinner circuit.
Management Skills Are Now Key
As you rose through the ranks from associate to senior associate,
you've most likely taken on more management responsibility. Now,
as partner, you will have even more. Become aware of your present
management style. Is it effective? Is it consistent with the culture
of your firm? Do others clamor to work with you, or does it seem
that you are always trying to pull together a team?
No matter what your management skill level, improving your ability
to manage others and the work of the firm must remain a prime focus
of your practice. You have an obligation to the associates you manage
to help them develop their own abilities, and you have an obligation
to your firm to attract and retain the very best people.
Although management skill levels vary, no one is born a perfect
manager. Management and leadership skills can be learned through
mentoring, coaching, education and practice. Ultimately, your responsibility
as a partner is to get the professional development you need so
that you are an effective manager.
Are Working Relationships
One of the keys to a successful transition is to maintain excellent
working relationships with associate colleagues. The associates
with whom you work today may be your partners or clients in the
future. An associate could even become a judge before whom you must
argue a case.
Sure, associates have a responsibility to you, and you have a responsibility
to them as well. Protect your reputation as a partner who is a good
listener and mentor. In an age when a vivid description of bad conduct
can lead to a blistering attack against you on the Web, make sure
that you act respectful in everything you do.
To develop your footing in the partnership, try to work as much
as possible with associates with whom you have not shared confidences
or close friendships. Each new associate with whom you work presents
an opportunity to develop your reputation as a fair and effective
Your new partners are also looking for certain behaviors in you:
good listening skills; an inquiring mind; a desire to advance the
wellbeing of the firm; a passion for learning; modesty; unselfish
behavior. But these behaviors, while essential, are not enough.
You must also gain an understanding of your firm's culture and its
power structure. The subtleties matter. Become a student of your
firm. Understand the partnership's needs. Internally, study the
politics rather than recklessly throwing yourself into the fray.
Externally, investigate trends that may affect the firm and its
client base. Remember, while it is always important to work hard,
it's even more important to work smart.
Never Stop Learning
Remember that the world around you is changing. To keep up, you
must make a commitment to continuous learning.
As an associate, becoming an expert in a discrete area of the law
may have been a ticket to success. As a partner, remaining an expert
in just a single discrete area of the law may lead to a dead end.
Become a voracious reader and develop new areas of expertise in
subjects where there are growth opportunities. The object is not
merely to stay at the top of your game. The object is to understand
how the rules of the game are changing, and how you need to position
yourself to be a leader in the games to come.
Remember To Have Fun
As always, your new partnership — and your career —
will be what you make of it. I hope it fulfills your dreams. Have
attorney, human resources professional and a licensed master of
social work, is the founder of Career Transitioning, a consultancy
dedicated to assisting organizations and individuals with workplace
issues, helping them overcome obstacles to success so that they
can achieve their goals.
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