Junior Law Firm Partners

An unusually candid article on the anxieties of junior partners in law firms.

Last month we held our first conference for new partners, big-firm lawyers promoted since 2008. [ ]

For all that, anxiety lurked, much of it concentrated in three areas:

• Clients: The new partners have few prospects of attracting new clients. They don’t know how. Junior partners don’t have access to mega-buck clients who can pay mega-fees. And they now find themselves competing with other partners. Some of those partners are reluctant to refer work because suddenly the ex-associates’ rates are too high!

• Their firms: The same issues were raised repeatedly. Their firms have been slow to embrace nonbillable-hour arrangements, even though clients seem very interested. And many new partners cited the problem of succession planning. At firms where rainmakers and origination credits rule, some senior partners won’t let go. It was sort of a Charlton Heston at the NRA moment: You’ll take these clients out of my hands when you pry my cold dead fingers off their files.

• Themselves: Several new partners spoke of a personal crisis. Having been promoted, they now found themselves lonely and isolated, facing a very unclear career path without guidance or formal training.

[ ]  No one expressed doubt that they could handle the legal work. But there was some sadness, even a touch of anger, from those who found themselves feeling alone and needing help. There are at least two obvious remedies. First, get some help. Autonomy doesn’t amount to much if a partner doesn’t feel able to hire an executive coach, marketing trainer, or therapist.

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