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How Can Associate Survival Tips NOT Include Marketing?

In this article, Ten Survival Tips for New Associates, David Dummer, himself an associate at Weil, Gotschal & Manges proffers advice to new lawyers for successfully navigating their first job at Biglaw.  Though Dummer's tips are self-evident and seemingly benign (they basically boil down to make yourself useful, kiss up to support staff and learn the facts of the case), following Dummer's advice for "associate survival" can ultimately mean "career suicide."  That's because Dummer overlooks the most critical tools to ensure success in the law:  marketing, building relationships and making a name for yourself.

To be fair, Dummer doesn't omit the importance of marketing entirely -- he just gives it incredibly short shrift.  He says "seeds planted today can make it rain tomorrow," then lamely suggests that associates join community associations, and stay in touch with friends and classmates as ideas for business development.  Quite honestly, these kinds of activities aren't going to build the portfolio of business that new lawyers need to take charge of their careers.

Lifetime employment at Biglaw is now the exception rather than the rule.  With weakened financial markets, some firms are already warning of imminent layoffs.  And even in better economic times, associate attrition rates are at all-time highs because of dissatisfaction with Biglaw life or a desire for work/life balance.  Odds are high that new associates starting at a large firm today won't be there five years from now, and if they are, they may not be happy.  And associates' ability to either extract concessions from their firm or to find a better position depends on the amount of business they've been able to generate and the connections they've been able to create with others.  Let's face it -- most law firms will find a way to offer flexible hours to an associate who's generating several million dollars in business a year.  And if not, that associate can pick up his or her portfolio of business and leave for more accommodating pastures.

Dummer's tips may help associates "survive" at a large firm.  But they certainly won't do much to help them thrive -- either at a large firm, or more importantly, at a career in the law.

For some ideas on how associates can build the kind of business that will let them call the shots, see this post by Larry Bodine, and a longer piece at Lawyer Marketing.


Posted by Carolyn Elefant on December 12, 2007 at 02:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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