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Friday, March 21, 2003

Identify the Power Partners to Assure Advancement at the Firm


At The Firm, it’s not always who you are but to whom you are attached. Careful alignments with The Firm’s Power Partners can protect an associate from being fired or otherwise mistreated by other partners. In some cases, the relationship might even be enough to assure the associate’s own rise to partnership–and maybe even power partnership.

I think we all know unexceptional lawyers who still manage to advance at The Firm because of ties to Power Partners. As goes the partner, so goes the associate. Don’t you wish you could be one of these less-qualified attorneys? Well, you can if you follow some of the tips below and select the right partner.

By the right partner, I mean a Power Partner. And identifying the Power Partners at The Firm is the critical first step. If you don’t know who’s who at The Firm, you might miss the opportunity to ingratiate yourself with influential senior lawyers and, worse yet, waste time and effort being cordial to people who can’t help advance your career.

While ties with Power Partners can propel your career, any affiliation with lesser partners can taint you forever. At all costs, avoid doing work for or even chatting with these people.

For associates having difficulty categorizing The Firm’s partners, the following are some helpful indicators:

• Does the partner answer her own telephone?
• Does she know how to use the computer?
• Can she operate the copying and fax machines?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, go on to the next partner. Power Partners have people to do these things for them.

You also don’t want a partner who is too nice–or nice at all, really. Beware of any senior lawyer who takes an interest in the lives and careers of associates and staff. You also want to hide from those who know the names of the guys in the mailroom and members of the cleaning crew. Being nice is nice, but it is also a sign of weakness. Don’t allow any of these partners to drop by your office just to chat. Instead, gravitate to those who respond to greetings or attempts at conversation with blank stares or occasional grunts.

Another type of partner to avoid is one who has time to help you with your assignments. This is the same kind of partner who will end up selling you his house due to his declining partnership draws. Instead, look for partners who don’t even practice anymore and instead make money bringing in clients and having the nice partners do all the legal work.

You will also notice that the most ethical lawyers in your office are the ones who don’t really have much pull. Signs of this are turning down cases and clients that present conflicts of interest or pose ethical issues. Instead, look for the partner who has been disbarred in more than a few states.

The lawyer’s personal life can also signal whether he or she is a Power Partner. Avoid those who are happily married. This is a sign that they are not spending enough time at the office. Instead, look for multiple divorces to go along with the aforementioned disbarments.

By carefully selecting the right partner, any associate–no matter how incompetent or unqualified–can assure his or her advancement at The Firm.

©2003 ABA Journal

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