I’m Gunning for Partner


QI’m a first year at a prominent Los Angeles firm. I’m doing exceptionally well so far. I know it’s a long way off, but how do I increase my odds for making partner?

A“Doing exceptionally well.” Good for you, playa. Really. I admire your resolve, and humility. When I was a first year, I was more concerned about making happy hour than making partner, but that’s probably why I’m not a lawyer anymore. Though your question is a bit premature, here’s my sincere advice to those associates gunning for partner from day one:

1Work with the most powerful partners in your firm and make them love you.  Sounds easy, but it’s not.  It’s also risky.  If you work with them and they don’t love you, you’re dead.  If they do, you’ve got a shot.  Not a great shot, but you’re still in the hunt.

2Develop a marketable expertise within your chosen practice area by your fifth year. If you’re a litigator, find a sub-specialty. Health care, media, intellectual property. If you’re a corporate geek, become an expert in private equity deals, LBOs, muni bond offerings, hedge fund, etc.

3Write law review articles, give speeches, teach classes. It’s not only critical to develop an expertise, but you also want to let the world (and the firm’s partners) know that you have said expertise. Never hurts to let the bigwigs see that you’re out there pimpin’.

4Originate meaningful business in your sixth or seventh year.  Not that easy to do, trust me. But if you want to make partner today, you’ll need clients, or at least a realistic chance at landing clients some day soon. Law firms are businesses. Never forget that. It’s tough to say no to people who generate revenue, or at least show the potential to generate revenue.

Ex-Bitter is a former big firm lawyer who now doles out advice to anyone who asks. Got a question? Email it to advice@bitterlawyer.com. Or read more Advice from an Ex-Bitter.

7 Comments

  1. BSD

    September 5, 2008 at 6:11 am

    So nice to hear a first year with such lofty goals…now back to reality junior. Marry a relative of one of the following (in no particular order):
    1. Founding partner;
    2. Senior Partner; or
    3. Major client (top 5).

  2. Anonymous

    September 5, 2008 at 6:53 am

    My friend was a very good looking guy who was mediocre as an associate in a large firm, but ambitious like the person writing in.; My friend also was busy currying favor with a powerful partner. However, the partner had a heavy daughter whose face could stop an 8 day clock.  Needless to say, the daughter wasn’t getting any guys interested in her (she was supposedly dull and just had an art degree from a school in NYC.  So the partner invites my friend over for Thanksgiving dinner and hooks him up with the daughter.  Within 2 years, they are married with a daughter, and my friend is now bringing home over $700K / year as a junior partner.  He says it could be worse; he might have been out on the street if he didn’t make partner, and this is a bad job market.  He also has gotten used to the wife, and he does love his daughter, too.  So maybe the advice to the guy whose a first year associate is to find a powerful partner with an ugly daughter that wants to be married with kids.  I’ts a sure fire way to get those dinero to roll in for the long-term.  Not a bad annuity, since even girls that are pretty in their 20’s and 30’s start getting fat and ugly by their 40’s and 50’s.  Money changes a lot of that.

  3. Bitterer

    September 5, 2008 at 10:44 am

    I thought this site was called bitter lawyer not gunner douchebag lawyer support network.

  4. Al Dickman

    September 5, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    Quitcherbitching, Bitterer, we’re all in this together; trying to impart valuable information that others can benefit from.  If you don’t like it, no one is forcing you to visit this site.  Not sure what your problem is, either.  Were you passed over for partner?  Would this site have been valuable to you a few years ago, BEFORE you F***ed up?  Get over your insecurities, take the telephone pole out of your rear end and have a nice weekend.

  5. Bitterer

    September 10, 2008 at 12:17 am

    Is this a joke, original question was clearly a softball some joker lobbed in to see what kind of hilarious bitter sarcastic response it would get.  instead its cliche go get em tiger advice to someone who is clearly a douchebag by any definition.  first years gunning for partner, thats like undergrad freshman studying lsats.  put the prep book down and think about whats wrong with your life.  as for the previous commenters below talking about marrying partners daughters for money and esp BSD (who would get laughed out of an ibank because no lawyer is a BSD, period), thats either great satire or a depressing example of the lawyer mindset.  To the editor, you will do more lawyers a favor by calling out their lack of self awareness and socially repugnant habits rather than enabling their “success”, unless you secretly hate them and feel as I do that they should continue being lawyers where they are trapped in their offices at all hours instead of on the street harassing people and sueing their neighbors.

  6. BSD

    September 12, 2008 at 8:02 am

    Bitterer – I’ve billed more hours and closed more deals than you ever could, you pantywaist! I keep types like you in a bowl on my desk like MM’s.
    Anytime, anyplace…”I’ll drink your milkshake”!

  7. Anonymous

    September 13, 2008 at 10:29 am

    BSD has the right idea.  You must have an “in” with someone important to ensure success.  So too the guy who married the ugly duckling who’s father is a big wheel at the firm.  That works for him.  But the big question is:  How do the ladies get ahead?  After all, most partners are men and their sons certainly can do better than having to be married off to women lawyers who probably look not too much better than the partner’s ugly duckling daughter that the men must dive for.  I think the best advice for the ladies is to work hard, try and become something valuable for the firm and in this way you wont have to marry some twerpy guy who’s father is a partner.

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