The top of anything exerts a powerful tug on the human imagination. Take Mount Everest. Why else would flocks of mountaineers, Sherpas, and bored, middle-aged American millionaires risk their lives every year to scale the thing? Because they dream of standing on top. The same holds true for law firms. At one point or another, every attorney worth his Montblanc pen pictures himself in the managing partner's office. Sociologists have studied this phenomenon. We're sure their findings are fascinating. (Whatever.) What we offer here is something much more practical: a step-by-step guide to law firm success. Will this information guarantee your safe passage to the summit? Of course not. As on Everest, freak storms, bottlenecks at critical junctures, and the sheer endurance required to complete the journey can stymie even the strongest climber. That said, the tips our experts offer are time-tested tools for advancement. Learn them, live by them. See you on top.
"Success at a law firm is about human relationships," says Peter Sloan, a career
development partner at Kansas City's Blackwell Sanders. Every time you meet someone new—a partner, another first-year, your secretary—smile. Introduce yourself. Take the time to ask the person a bit about herself. Be the kind of person people like to work with, says Sloan. "You'll lay the groundwork for the relationships you'll need to get ahead."
Drop the attitude
You were a superstar in law school. Neat. Now forget about that: You're back at the bottom of the totem pole. There's nothing wrong with being confident, "but stow the attitude," says Sloan. "You got the job for the same reason that everybody else did. Everyone here is hardworking and smart." The best way to convey a good attitude: Take on assignments eagerly and complete each one as if it's the most important piece of work in the world.
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