Saturday, December 20, 2008


Someone asked for recommendations for how to behave in a review.   I have touched on this in an early post as it related to summer associates in mid or end of summer reviews, but there are some additional pointers for attorneys.

First, do not be a passive participant, just showing up and listening.    At a former firm, we associates could fill out a sort of self-evaluation report, where we could describe significant projects/achievements, as well as professional development activities, pro bono, firm activities (eg., recruiting committee) and community involvement.  Although this was voluntary, and it was time-consuming to do what I perceived to be a thorough job, I forced myself to do it, figuring that the primary evaluator (or any evaluators who received it) probably didn't know everything I had done all year, and this would help them understand the big picture.  Remember, the senior attorneys who complete written evaluations have several to do and it is an arduous task.  They appreciated that I gave them information that they could plug into their evaluations.  And, I felt better knowing that they were more aware of all I was doing.  If you are not aware of such a form at your firm, ask around.  I gave a junior associate a copy of one of my older self-evaluations that she could use as a model.  

If there are particular issues you would like to discuss (say, I am a junior litigator, but I haven't defended a deposition), you may wish to drop the primary evaluator a note with some things you would like to discuss.  Supervising attorneys generally like it when we see someone who is interested in furthering his or her professional development.  

Have a sense of your numbers before you go in (e.g., hours, client origination (if applicable), etc.  This helps if you get your evaluation and there's incorrect numerical information or numerical-based observations.  

If you get a copy of the written evaluation before, review it carefully.  Make notes of any incorrect statements or any items with which you disagree.  You can be prepared to discuss -- calmly.

Bring a notepad and pen, you may wish to take notes.

Listen to the evaluator.  Be appreciative of compliments.  Take in constructive criticism.  If there is something you do not understand, ask calmly for clarification.  Oftentimes the evaluator has collected various comments from other reviewers, and may need to go back to any underlying evaluation form to determine what is meant.  

If you have information to share -- like hours information is incorrect, or you actually did defend a deposition when they said you still needed to do so -- share that with the reviewer.  While you shouldn't be overly defensive or abrasive, this is YOUR career and you shouldn't sit passively like a pillow on a couch.  I often was able to get things added to my evaluation that were overlooked.

Feel free to express appreciation to the evaluator for his or her efforts.  These evals do take up a lot of non-billable time.  

If there are opportunities you would like to get, especially with the evaluator (e.g., work on the xxx case, or a xyz type of matter), go ahead and express that as well.  This is usually a good time to indicate the areas you are interested in, and to show that you are more than an employee -- that you want to develop your career and expand your capabilities and experiences.

No crying.  Doesn't help.

No whining.  Only hurts.

Be professional, be calm.

-- These words of advice assume that you are not getting canned in the evaluation or otherwise "set up."  We can address that situation another time.  

Monday, December 15, 2008

questions on early lateral moves

A commenter asked about the options:

- if you hate your first job
-- how long one can expect to have to stay at a firm before moving on
I'd say after 2 years is a good time to start working with a recruiter (ask trusted friends for recommendation, preferably someone outside your firm to avoid leaks). Most firms and recruiters think that you should stay 2 years before moving; you get a fair amount of experience and you don't look like and immediate job-hopper. Years 3-4 are probably the busy times for lateral associates, more movement, better focus by the associate as to what kind of practice they want, how firm B could be better than firm A, what they are really looking for long and short term. The recruiter calls do slow down as you hit year 6 and above.

-- how long grades are going to be following you around, etc.

E.g? great grades 1L and 2L, great firm for summer, and then C in 3L: cause for worry if want to lateral after 2 years.

E.g.: grades not great, but land job @great firm; at what point grades irrelevant.
Grades do become less important. Firms you are considering lateraling to will ask for a transcript as a matter of diligence (even HP had to give one when HP moves firms as a P). As an associate, your grades may be reviewed, but if you worked at a solid place, have a good reputation/references, as long as your grades aren't totally in the toilet, you should be fine. After a couple of years, at least in most places (I'm excluding special practices like Supreme Court practices where they may be partial to Yale Law grads and brainiacs), the HP is more interested in your experience in the workplaces and whether you are qualified for the position, and less concerned about the grades. Good grades are always a plus, but I can tell you in any mid size to large firm, if you pulled out the transcripts, there are a wide range of grades and even law schools out there.
If grades not great, keep plugging along, develop expertise, get known within the local and/or speciality bar, get out to bar and other events, grow your base.
I've even seen one guy with hideous grades get an associate job at a firm because he had very particular expertise and background that a practice group leader needed. Now, he didn't work out long term (and this HP wouldn't have hired him in first place because grades were really, really bad and he wasn't that far out of school), but the point is that experience can surpass grades when it comes to hiring.
I will aim to get back posting and I have to encourage my guest posters to start posting!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

BTW, did you folks vote for our blog over at abajournal?  I can't believe HP is getting a** whooped by the Temporary Attorney blog!  Somehow I am insulted.  Though in this market, I guess I see the interest in finding a job as a temporary attorney.  Anyway, please vote when you have a chance.  For no other reason than HP doesn't like to lose.

Layoff Questions

Hello all. Well thank goodness the overly sensitive types have gone away.  Now we can get back to actual advice.

A commenter asked about layoffs and whether they are generally less public than we have been seeing as of late.  Sure, there always have been, and will be, "quiet" layoffs.  There have always been and also will be "quiet" performance-based terminations.  When the economy is difficult, firms tend to say goodbye to people more quickly than when things are busy busy and you need more bodies. I have seen plenty of mediocre or non-hardworking lawyers in law firms in prior years.  Those people won't get to hang around as long in the current economy.

What used to happen when one is let go (assuming not "for cause") in BigLaw was the standard 3 month salary/winding down.  The individual being let go may or may not continue to do work. Basically, the firm would pay the person, benefits continued, secretarial support, etc., but the person would generally focus on new employment finding.  This wasn't horrible since the person could use the office/computer/phones etc and by outward appearances was just moving laterally.  Typically the firm would want a settlement agreement and release.  I know several people who have done these kind of arrangements, found new employment (other firms, in-house, etc) and moved on.  I've also known people who are so shocked at getting terminated that they never really got over it.  The bottom line is, in an economic situation, it is not your fault, and you need to do your best to move forward.  If it was performance based, you should try to understand the issue; perhaps BigLaw or law firms in general are not your strong suit.

Someone asked if most people who leave firms are actually being let go.  The answer is no.  People leave for a wide variety of reasons, which is why there is such high attrition in law firms.  Any of the following and others occur:  move to different city for spouse job/self job/need to be closer to relatives; move in-house; move to government or non-profit organization; litigator who wants more trial experience and gets prosecutor-type job; person who moves to a boutique; person who just moves laterally; mom who decides to stay home with children; dad who decides to stay home with children (see, HP very PC); person who leaves law entirely for new field.  Sure, some people are let go, but as I mentioned in the comments to a post, don't assume because someone is leaving that they had to, and don't gossip.  It only ends up getting back to them and they get pissed and might even complain to management.

Remember, no one is indispensable.  You can work hard to make yourself as valuable to the organization as you think you can/connect with big rainmaker/develop needed niche specialty/develop ton of own business etc., but there are many variables out there -- e.g., loss of huge client.  We don't always have control over these things.  The best things to do are to try to create a safety net through building relationships, developing a solid reputation, developing great substantive legal skills and getting out in the legal and business and social community so you are not wedded to one practice group/firm/partner.  Remember no one looks out for YOU the way YOU need to.  And, don't piss too many people off.  People have long memories, and they are not apt to help (and can hurt) your career down the road when you need friends, not enemies.

Happy weekend!

Next post will try to address the questions raised regarding lateral movement

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Who has helped you along the way and who have you helped?  We can often be both mentors and mentees.  Some of us are lucky to happen upon a terrific individual who takes us under their wing simply because they like to do so, or believe they have a social responsibility to do so, etc.  Others find mentors spring from hard work.  HP once had a terrific mentor.  HP did a lot of grunt work for the mentor that ultimately built up a relationship of trust and admiration.  And, mentor stood up for HP when HP needed mentor to do so.  

If you don't have a mentor, how can you connect with one?  Well there are several ways to do so.  And remember, you can have more than one mentor at a time, or over time, you can have mentors who practice in your area, or other areas, you can have mentors who are both genders (OK everyone???).  HP's best mentors over the years have been men and women, corporate lawyers and litigators.   Mentors can be inside and outside of your organization.

Connecting....some firms have mentoring programs.  The results of these can be mixed, because it is not a natural evolution, at least at the are usually assigned based upon some connection or someone's reasoning why the pairing would be a good one, and considering any rules of the program.  I think in most instances, it is a good idea to participate to at least widen your network and see if it works for you.  

Otherwise, reach out to people...not "hello, will you be my mentor," but rather, in a way that builds a relationship.  Ask around as to what more senior lawyers tend to be good mentors; try to see who you may have some things in common with, whether it is bar association activities, or sub-speciality interest, etc.    I know some solid mentor/mentee relationships that began when the mentee offered to help with book chapters the partner was writing or articles.  These helped the junior attorney develop a deeper knowledge base in the area, get his/her name out there, and work with the intended mentor.

Now, who have you helped?  Yes, you.  We can all be mentors in some way.  HP tries to reach out to more junior attorneys to help them along the way; encouragement on client development, advice on firm social functions, explaining processes, and general strategy.  Aside from doing a good deed, doing right by others, it never hurts.  People remember people (well some, anyway) who help them, especially when they are down. You have a friend out of a job, think of some suggestions if you can.  I know a guy with a great newish client.  How did he get the client? Well when their GC lost his last job in a corporate restructuring, this other lawyer stayed in touch, put the GC in touch with others, basically tried to help.  He did not help place GC at new company but GC did land.  GC said "if this guy took such care when I was down, I know he will take care of me at new company."  You never know when doing good will bring good to you.  

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Holiday Party

Last night, HP attended a firm holiday party.  HP thought, this is a useful topic for a new post.  Many of  you will be attending holiday parties over the next couple of weeks (btw, I mean those associated with work, not the regular type with family or friends).  Some may be invited as summer associates, others as lawyers with the firm.  Actually, this advice really applies in professional settings generally.  

Let me start out by noting that none of this is rocket science. It is pretty much common sense.  But no matter, we will still see some holiday party train wrecks.  

Top 10 things to do/not to do at firm (or company) holiday party (not necessarily in order, but HP has a lot to do today:

10. Fail to RSVP -- in a large organization it may not be noticed, but in smaller ones, it may be noted as rude or especially inconsiderate if, say, someone is hosting at their home.  

9.   Dressing inappropriately.  Unless it is black tie, suits are fine for men.  The women tend to get into more trouble here since there's more ambiguity.  Low cut (read: bosoms hanging or more than a bit of cleavage) will get you noticed in the wrong way.  For guests, you may wish to advise similarly, since for years, people at one firm I know discussed a partner's wife and her hanging boobs and the xmas party of 1999?

8. Sitting/hanging with people you always hang with.  You guys and gals know that HP wouldn't like this.  The point is to get out and mingle.  Introduce your guest; make polite small talk.  It helps to have a guest who is outgoing but at a minimum, seems pleasant and don't say anything to piss off someone (e.g. ,a guest once insulted HP's spouse).

7.   Wild dancing.  At some parties, everyone is dancing. At others, just staff.  You need to kind of judge this for yourself.  The safe side is probably not to dance since so many of us look dumb.  In any event, NO DIRTY DANCING.  Yes, I have seen this one myself.  Of course, alcohol can be a factor; you know that is coming later.

6. Bringing your kids  Unless kids are invited (sometimes there are kids holiday parties), do not bring your children -- small or big -- to a firm party.  I am still perplexed by colleague who brought teen son (and wife) to black tie party. Teen son then proceeded to best-friend bartender and drink illegally.  Seemed odd and was very noticed.

5. Hook up with co-workers.  Please do not do the heavy flirt/obvious pick up at the holiday party. We may not know what goes on after hours, but attorneys and staff cavorting in front of us do not help your profile.  Co-attorneys may be a different issue and of course many issues involved there -- supervising attorney or not, etc.  The bottom line is, keep the sexy stuff out of the holiday party.

4. If clients are attending, be on special guard.  Pleasant, cheerful, stay away from controversial topics, etc.  

3.   Do thank the organizers of the party if you know who they are, it never hurts.  

2. Don't gossip about others in the mens/ladies restrooms; you never know who is in the stalls!

1. You knew this one was coming -- don't get toasted.  DON'T DO IT. People, remember.  It is unprofessional and can lead to a violation of several of my no nos above (e.g., hookups).  Just because the liquor is complimentary does not mean this is the frat house.  You can drink but take it easy and stop early.  A DUI would be a very bad career move; being a loud drunk is also a bad career move; hurling at the holiday party similarly not the best career move.

-- I should have made number 1 to Attend -- but this varies -- assuming lawyers do go and it is not a 98% staff function -- yes, you should attend. 

Have fun, be safe, and network!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

follow up on a tale of two associates

The two associates tale seems to have elicited some response and perhaps misunderstanding.

First, HP means no disrespect to women lawyers.  In fact, HP is known as an extremely supportive P when it comes to advancing women.  BTW, why do so many out there even assume HP is a man?  HP never identified gender.  HP could be a woman.  Why not?  Many HPs out there today are women.  I think there are some inherent biases here; since the launch of HP's blog, many people have just assumed HP is male.   That may be incorrect and a biased assumption.

On the subject of the two associates -- unless I didn't describe them the way I meant to, BOTH are hardworking -- Susan isn't "schmoozing."  In fact, if you read the description, she is the more hardworking one (at least that is what HP intended).  But, really my point was that Mindy is selling herself short in the long run -- and perhaps in the short run - but my point was to her overall reputation, status, and development.  Staff complained Mindy wouldn't acknowledge them; even women partners indicated Mindy didn't seem at all receptive when they reached out.  Now, hopefully Mindy has a good protector in her group -- but down the road, wouldn't it have made more sense for Mindy to have built her reputation in the office, beyond her practice group, beyond just the main people she works with?  HP is saying again not to be one-dimensional.  It makes sense to get to know more people for so many reasons, and have those people respect you.  

Case in point, HP has a friend who is a woman partner and a solid business developer.  Friend not slave to law firm. Friend has a family, works a reduced schedule, volunteers in the schools, etc.  Friend by all accounts has a good balance.  How did friend get this?  Well, friend worked hard as an associate.  Friend showed respect to all and was extremely responsive, pleasant and cordial - to other colleagues in her office, to colleagues in other firm offices, even to opposing counsel.  Friend now gets all sorts of referral work.  From where?  From former colleagues (even those not in practice group) who have moved in house, from former clients, even from former adversaries.  Friend has developed  reputation as a terrific, top notch lawyer who can be trusted and who is respected.  Mindy was not on her way in this scenario.

I am not sure why people thought Susan was just schmoozing.  Getting out of the office, getting involved in bar activities, professional organizations, etc, isn't just schmoozing.  I even said Susan developed a sub-specialty.  A wise lawyer with a huge client roster once said "you can be the best lawyer out there, but if no one knows who you are or what you do, you won't be a very successful lawyer."  Susan was working hard and developing her reputation.  She wasn't just hanging out at Starbucks with her friends - that is more of a Mindy thing.

I hope that has cleared up a few items.  

I will try to address the burn out (Rachel?) comment and also the "what if Susan has kids"comment  ( so what? - see note re: Friend above). She can have kids and still be dedicated, successful and see those kids -- bad bias on your part.  

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

a tale of two associates

An interesting story from HP's former firm provides some good material for today's example of how to be a great "all around" associate who helps advance her own career.

Associate 1.  Let's call her Susan.  Susan joined the firm laterally a short time ago.  Susan is a pleasant, cheerful person, but definitely at the firm to work hard, do whatever needs to be done to get the job done -- working late, weekends, etc.  Susan is pleasant and respectful to all -- partners she works with, other partners, counsel, and attorneys in the office, staff, etc. Susan does make an effort to attend firm events, such as holiday party, group meetings, women attorney meetings, etc.   Associate Susan is known as an extremely hard working attorney who is highly professional, trustworthy and personable.  She has also shown some business development potential by inviting her contacts to appropriate firm events and by developing a sub-specialty.

Associate 2.  Let's call her Mindy.  Mindy started with the firm as a summer associate and is now a mid level associate.  (Btw, no offense meant to our women lawyers here, these could be two men; they just happened to be two women at my former firm).  Mindy is a bright woman, with a strong pedigree.  Mindy does seemingly solid work for her group.  Mindy is seen socializing with her practice group, but not with others.  Staff complain that she does not really acknowledge them.  Other attorneys feel the same way.  While Mindy may be a good lawyer, we don't get the sense that she cares much about the firm (since she doesn't really participate in firm events), the other lawyers and personnel outside practice group, or really growing her career.  We don't see her involved in firm committees, or outside groups. Best we can tell, she bills her time, hangs with her friends at firm, and leaves.

So, if times are tough, who would you choose if you had to lay off one?    Well assuming both are fairly occupied on client matters...I would choose Susan as the one to keep of course.  She's got more long term potential -- solid firm citizen plus business development potential. And people like her, and she's building her network, reputation, knowledge base, etc.  

Second question, who has a brighter future?  Well, of course Susan.  She's getting out of the office, she's interacting with colleagues outside her group, and she's not causing any waves or creating bad feelings.

Third question, if I move in-house tomorrow and have a need...who would I call?  Duh...Susan.  Because I can trust her, and know that she will do a good job and know that she will make me look good -- because I have interacted with her and seen her interact with others.  

Fourth question, if my former colleague who is now a senior in-house counsel calls me down the road and says he is interviewing Mindy for a position and what are my thoughts on her...what do you think HP will say?  HMMMM.  

Mindy - for a smart gal -- is behaving dumb dumb dumb.  Perhaps finding a rich hubby is her game plan.  But, her behavior in the workplace -- being aloof (if not rude), clique-y, not getting involved in firm through committees, not getting to know her other colleagues, etc., is short-sighted in so many ways -- advancement in firm, advancement elsewhere, etc.  

Build your reputation, expand your friends, be respectful to all, get involved, be a good firm/company citizen -- be someone others respect, like, and trust.  Don't be a Mindy.  

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

small and mid sized firms

People sometimes ask HP if it is possible to make the move to BigLaw from a small or mid sized firm.  The answer is yes.  As prospects at BigLaw for entering and lateral associates shrink (my recruiter friends tell me hiring is pretty flat and very slow), many of you will need to expand your base of possible employers, as we have discussed.  In the boom days, with good grades, a good law school, and a decent personality, BigLaw is in sight.  However, these are different days and require some further thinking, creativity, and go-getting if you haven't landed through BigLaw recruiting channels -- and I don't believe BigLaw is for everyone anyway.  HP is just saying that the fall on campus recruiting process is a relatively pain fee process of finding a solid job.  It is more difficult to branch out.  But, that is what many will need to do, especially first years.

So, you ask, can I go from a smaller firm to Big Law eventually (assuming that is a goal)?  Yes, you can.  But how?  Well, wherever you are, you want to do great work and build your reputation.  Get involved in bar activities (you can often get involved even as a law student).  Reach out to potential mentors.  Offer to assist with committee work such as newsletters or meeting preparation.  Yes, it is grunt work and takes up time you could be doing other things, but it is a great long term investment.  Get your name out in the community.  Work in an area you love (ok, at least like).  Try to develop sub-specialties in growing areas. When recruiters call you, be polite -- call them back and establish a relationship.  If they don't call, ask friends for recommendations and reach out.  

Where does Big Law come in?  Well, a couple (few?) years down the road, slots will open when associates depart through the normal course or an area picks up and the firm needs additional bodies.  Firms will reach out further to fill these slots.  I have recommended several candidates we interviewed from smaller firms because of the experience in a certain specialty area where we needed help.  

Familiar tune here?  HP hopes I don't sound like a broken record when HP says that you need to push forward even harder during more difficult times to build your reputation, network, and seek opportunities.   

More on connecting with the small and mid sized in a later post.  

Monday, December 1, 2008

Vote for HP's Blog

HP interrupts the usual career advice to share some exciting news...

The ABA Journal announced that it has selected Hiring Partner's Office as one of the top 100 best websites by lawyers, for lawyers!  

Now, my friends, you can vote for your favorite blog.  To vote, go to    We are under the Careers section.  Please don't let Gerry Spence beat HP (not that HP is competitive or anything)

Voting ends Jan. 2, 2008.  Vote early; not sure if you can vote often!  Wow, who would have thought HP's original rantings regarding flip flops would lead to minor fame, if not fortune.  As HP has just spent hours on firm administrative stuff, and had a lonnnng day, HP needs a little pick me up.  Thanks again for your support!  HP has to say that I am most impressed when my commenters give each other advice -- a lot of it very helpful and on the money.  So, you folks should be darn proud of yourselves.