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Kaplan College Paralegal Studies

Successful Career Strategies, Inc.

November 2005

Are You On, or Way Off, the Partnership Track?

Am I on the partnership track?

This is the question that dominates the thoughts of most law firm associates. It is also a very difficult question to answer. Most associates, even those who do everything humanly possible to advance at The Firm, are given very little indication if they are on the partnership track.

In the good old days, i.e., when those who are now partners were associates, individuals who developed into capable attorneys could feel confident of ascending to the promised land of partnership. The law firm partnership structure was designed to promote those among the associate ranks who distinguished themselves by their lawyering skills. Over time, however, it got crowded at the top and became increasingly difficult to be elected partner. Simultaneously, factors other than mastery of the law emerged as important criteria for determining who would make it at The Firm.

All of the above developments have made it far more difficult for associates to know where they stand on the road to partnership. Fortunately, The Rodent is here to provide some assistance to associates interested in knowing their chances for advancement. The questions below are designed to test whether an associate is doing all the things one must do in order to succeed in the law firm environment. Answer yes or no to the following:

  1. Do you ask partners for their opinion even if you don't need their advice, just to show you respect their judgment?
  2. Do you stay late in the office just to impress the partners?
  3. Do you spend your weekends at partners' homes helping out with household chores?
  4. When reprimanded by a partner, even for something that's not your fault, do you bow and say "Thank you sir, may I have another?"
  5. When a partner tells a joke you don't find amusing, do you laugh heartily and say "that's the funniest thing I've ever heard."? Then do you do the same thing again, five minutes later?
  6. Do you keep a scrapbook of the partners you work for?
  7. Do you keep a "blunder file" on other associates competing against you for partnership?
  8. Do you develop an interest in hobbies that happen to be the same hobbies of The Firm's most powerful partners?
  9. If a client is pleased with the way you handled a file, do you ask the client to write a complimentary letter and send it to the partners?
  10. Do you draft the aforementioned letter yourself?
  11. Do you deliver the aforementioned letter yourself?
  12. Do you dream of the day when your name is in the title of The Firm?
  13. Do you dream of having the building named after you?
  14. Do you focus more on looking good when doing something than actually accomplishing it?
  15. Do you shoot to kill, rather than simply try to wound your rivals?
  16. When another associate make a mistake, do you write a memo documenting the event?
  17. Do you distribute the aforementioned memo around The Firm?
  18. Do you send the aforementioned memo to the local legal newspaper?
  19. Do you send the aforementioned memo to the State Bar?
  20. Do you send the aforementioned memo to the other lawyer's friends and family?
  21. Do the conclusions of your legal research always match what you know the partner wants to hear?
  22. While on vacation, do you pick up gifts for partners?
  23. Do you create a crisis just so you can solve it?
  24. If a partner compliments you for a task that is another's accomplishment, do you smile and say thank you?
  25. Do you have framed photographs of you and partners on your desk and office walls?
  26. Do you take a dictaphone with you when you go out with other associates and secretly record their conversations to play back at the next partnership meeting?

Now check you score. Give yourself one point for each question to which you answered yes.

If your score was fifteen points or below, you should consider finding a new job -- perhaps as in-house counsel or an insurance adjuster.

If your score is between fifteen and twenty, you still have hope but you better be a damn good practitioner to make up for your other deficiencies.

Congratulations to those scoring over twenty points. You are firmly on the partnership track. Keep up the good work and don't let it get you down when others call you "the obsequious associate." Someday, these same people will be calling you "partner."

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