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 start...you 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.  


Anonymous said...

Off-top question: I read recently that performance-based firings occur more often than is public and that many large firms keep the firings private and allow the associates to stay on until they find a new job so it doesn't look like a firing. How true is this?

If one works hard, socially competent, reasonably intelligent and lucky enough to not catch the wrong end of an economic down-turn, can one count on being able to stay at a large firm?

Do most associates who leave firms get asked to leave?

Anonymous said...

Are there certain practice groups in big firms that afford greater opportunities upon leaving the firm?

Hiring Partner said...

Anonymous 3:52; good question. I will address your questions in an upcoming post.

In short, it used to be the case that associates were told of need to look elsewhere and usually given 3 months salary, plus you have office, voicemail, email etc so looks to outsider no problem. This usually entailed you signing a release.

I wouldn't say most associates who leave get asked to leave. There is natural attrition for many different reasons. I have a very close friend who moved to a different sector totally voluntarily, in fact she was beloved at firm. Later, some wondered out loud if she had been asked to leave along with a few others. She and I were outraged as if you knew anything about her reputation in firm, you would know that was not the case. So people should be careful not to point fingers.

Again, more detail soon, HP just very busy over next couple of days.

f-3 said...

3:55pm - Your question is probably too vague and undefined. Whether a practice group provides you with greater opportunities upon exit has to do with where you choose to go next, what training you received while you were at the firm, whether you generalized or specialized, etc.

There are just so many variables that govern whether doors will open for you. If you have a specific area in mind, go ahead and clarify, and hopefully a more tailored / specific scenario will get you more concrete responses.

Hiring Partner said...

F3 has good observations! may put HP out of this non paying job!

f-3 said...

Thanks HP, but questions like Anonymous 3:52 are completely beyond me. Some professional experiences from my previous life translate, but the majority of questions posted by commentators on this blog can only be answered by people who have worked in law firms for extended periods of time, and have witnessed first-hand, and participated in, how a law firm "thinks."

This goes to a broader point I've come to realize - law firms have a very unique business model. Even if one has significant work experience elsewhere, one cannot assume that the same rules of conduct necessarily apply at a law firm.

Hence the necessity for blogs like this one!

Anonymous said...

3:55 here, thank you for the responses. I suppose I was vague because I am not clear on my career path. From what I've been exposed to so far I'm most interested in corporate, litigation and IP. I have no science background, which may mean IP is not an option for me. I'm going to be an SA this summer.

Down the line, if I don't stay at a big firm, I see myself either going in-house or maybe switching over into business (I know still a bit vague).

I had an interest in private equity but now it seems like this path might not be as ideal as it was 5 months ago...

f-3 said...

3:55 / 2:47 - Some quick observations, but there are others who are closer to this than I am, so I hope they jump in also:

1) Yes, some IP firms require upfront that interviewees hold a science / engineering degree, but not all do. The requirement seems more stringent in patent practice, but less so in copyright or trademark.

2) See this article about how to succeed as an in-house lawyer:


You may hear some people say corporate / transactional experience, as opposed to litigation, is more important for in-house, but there are litigators hired for in-house too. A suggestion: Go to a job board and look up postings for in-house lawyers. The posted job requirements will tell you what skills you need to acquire.

Large multinationals hire in-house lawyers by subject area. For example, they will hire one to deal with employment / ERISA issues, then another one for commercial or government contracts, and another for environmental. Bottom line: Don't feel compelled to limit yourself to specific subject matter areas.

However, if you switch over to a smaller outfit / startup where they expect to hire only one lawyer to handle everything, being more of a generalist helps.

3) Finally, I would encourage you not to let the current economy dictate your long-term career path too much. By all means show enthusiasm and let the firm know you'd be happy to work on whatever - that is expected of SAs. But remember: (a) Don't think your practice choices now are irreversible / irrevocable - you still have at least several more years before you have to narrow down! (b) Be flexible - most people manage to find new areas of interest over the summer; and (c) If you're truly interested in private equity as a long term career goal, keep it in your sight. Don't give up on it yet, because like investing in the market, your career is also worth a long-term view.

Good luck!

f-3 said...

Sorry, the link should be:


f-3 said...

Arrgh! The setup here won't let me paste the current link. Go to:


Then do a search for "Jonathan McCoy" -- the second result should be "How to succeed as an in-house lawyer."

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for your advice f-3 - very encouraging and down to earth. I really appreciate it. Both you and HP are very generous for devoting your time to helping budding lawyers.


Ariella said...

I don't know if you'd consider it mentoring, but I teach LRW at the local law school. 1Ls are simultaneously the most arrogant and scared group of people I've ever met. I try my best to let them know that law school is only 2/3 as painful as they've heard... ;)

g2 said...

HP, could write about lateral hires?

I am still a law student, as many of us commenters here are, but it would be useful for us to know
- what the options are if you hate your first job
- how long one can expect to have to stay at a firm before moving on
- how long grades are going to be following you around.

Example: suppose you have great grades your first and second year, get a job at a great firm, and then get a C your 3L year. Is it a cause for worry if you want to lateral after 2 years?

Example2: your grades are not great, but through good interview skills/work experience/connections/whatever you get a job at a firm that is 'out of your league'. At what point does the fact that you worked at the great firm become more important than your mediocre grades?

Anonymous said...

g2 - great questions!! I'd love to hear answers to those too.