The concept of mentoring in the late 80’s went something like this: If you screw up, your colleagues will make like chickens pecking at a sore and take you down. This was before kids got trophies just for participating. As we enter football season and the undeniable wisdom real contact can offer, here are a few thoughts for the new associate. And before you ask, No, we didn't have the explicit version of Halestorm’s ‘Here’s To Us’, to motivate us. No, it had to come from inside.
There are countless articles promoting the virtues of the practice of law and the integrity necessary for success, but in this Trump age I wonder if it isn't more beneficial to simply be as disagreeable, arrogant, and egotistical as possible.
Think about the most successful lawyers you know. Do they really remember your wife’s name or yours for that matter? Most of them are so caught up in themselves that going to court is unthinkable because they might have to surrender the stage to the judge. At lunch, they ignore you as you blather on about your mortgage or charity work. You can tell they would just like to be anywhere else. They ignore your friend requests and you can forget about getting that AVVO endorsement.
Despite their behavior, what advice would they offer the incoming associate?
- Don’t be a doormat.
- Always, and I mean always, be the aggressor. None of that mamsy pamsy Lean Forward stuff, hit them in the sternum, kick them in the shin and if they knock you down, get back up and poke them in the eye Stooges style (You see, there was this show called the Three Stooges...)
- It doesn’t have to be personal. Don’t sit around bitching about opposing counsel. Remember, if all goes well, they are going to write us a big check. Our profession is one of the few non-athletic endeavors that expect disagreement, confrontation, and conflict. Do it with style in your writing and advocacy and don’t be so obvious.
- Protect your client no matter how much you hate them. Let’s face it, some clients are unrealistic and demand a lot of unnecessary time. Put your personal feelings aside and remember they are why we exist.
- Return all of your calls, emails and texts as soon as possible. Speed is critical in our world.
- Never ask a question unless you have researched the issue and simply can’t find the answer. Google it for God’s sake. In our day we had Digests.
- Get to work early and stay late. Don't ever think the boss appreciates watching you get inebriated at the bar after work, even if he or she is matching you drink for drink.
- If you pass by an accident scene and don’t think about whom they will hire, pull your head out and remember we are always working.
- Nothing moves cases to resolution like a trial setting. Please give me back all of the wasted minutes I spent arguing with adjusters. Remember, the jury is our leverage and it is rare to get full value for a case short of the courthouse steps.
- You can do this or I wouldn’t have hired you. Be a fanatic for our clients and remember, in the end, attitude is our edge and defeat is simply unacceptable.