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.