WEEKLY RECRUITER SPEAK
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One of the most persistent problems at-torneys practicing law have is their failure tocollaborate and learn from the other attor-neys they are practicing law with. There areseveral factors that are essential for successin the practice of law and advancing in yourcareer. Being well-liked and collaborating isone of the more important ones.This is at odds with the types of personalitiesmost attorneys have. Many attorneys wereonce quite competitive in an academic senseand spent a lot of their time studying aloneto get an edge on their peers. In the law firmenvironment, most attorneys work alone inoffices and do their best to generate as manybillable hours as possible.Amongst all of this solitary activity, however,attorneys are all part of a social dynamicinside their legal organization. Beyond anyother single issue-including the attorney’swork product-the largest obstacle and riskto an attorney’s success is a social dynamicturning against the attorney. If your fellowassociates, or even worse, the partners youwork with, do not like you, word will getaround and your future with your organiza-tion may be doomed.I would argue that being well-liked inside alegal environment is more important than inmost other professions. If you are an associ-ate and are not liked by your colleagues, thepartners will assume that clients will not likeyou either. Additionally, if partners do notlike you, then you will not get a lot of work. Ifyou are isolated from others within your legalorganization, it is also far easier for the firmto let you go in times of economic uncertain-ty. You need to always be in a position whereothers want to do you a favor.There are several keys to being well-likedin a legal environment and this article willexamine some of the more important ones,including: (1) not getting involved in cliques;(2) never saying anything bad about anyco-worker-no matter what; (3) making yoursuperiors feel important, (4) listening, nottalking too much, and asking about others,(5) participating in “group solidarity” activi-ties, and (6) keeping your head down andsmiling.
1. Do Not Get Actively Involved in Cliques
One of the most dangerous things you can doin a legal workplace is to get actively involvedin a clique. While there is nothing wrongwith being part of a social group, because ofreasons specific to their environments, lawfirms are likely the wrong places to do this.First, cliques-like all social organizations-go through their ups and downs. One of themost unifying things about cliques is thatthe members bond over a shared set ofcircumstances. When bad things happen tothe members of a clique, the clique tends tocome together and unite against the “nega-tive outside forces” that created the badcircumstances. Rest assured, bad things willhappen to members of every law firm clique.In a large law firm, something in the neigh-borhood of over 50% of the associates in yourclass will leave and go to other jobs (or leavethe practice of law entirely) within the firsttwo to three years of their time with the firm.While this is not necessarily a bad thing forthese attorneys, many of these attorneys willleave under bad circumstances where theyhave done something wrong. In addition, a lotof these attorneys will be angry with the firmand the firm’s partners and the partners willknow they are angry. If you and a group ofvery close peers have been seen spending agreat deal of time with someone who leavesunder bad circumstances, the perception willbe that you are angry about it too. The firmmay even think you are a candidate for leav-ing for the same reasons. You do not want tobe associated with this. You will be perceivedas being on the wrong team.Second, if you are involved in a clique, therewill be other associates who, by the veryexistence of your clique, will feel excluded.They may not be invited to certain lunches,may hear about you doing things outside ofwork with other clique members and willwalk by the office and see you and otherclique members speaking. This will makethem feel excluded. When people feel ex-cluded they generally have a response.The most typical response inside law firmsis that the excluded people will form a cliqueof their own. Alternatively, they may decidethat, since your particular group is not allthat interested in them (rightly or wrongly),their best course of action is to work harder,kiss up to partners more, or look better thanthe members of your clique in some way oranother.Third, most of the people that make partnerin large and midsized law firms were neverpart of cliques. The reason? They did not
The Importance of Being Well-Liked in Your Legal Job
[by A. Harrison Barnes, Esq.]
Your job may seem to be all about putting in long hours and hard work, but our recruiters say personal relationships play as big a role, if not a bigger one, inhow far you can advance.