In order to attain success within a Florida law firm, or any law firm for that matter, you need to be proactive and take affirmative steps to submit great work product on a consistent basis and with a sustained vigor to stand out to firm leadership. It is important to understand how law firms work and why it is so critical for long-term professional success to do all you can to standout to the senior associates, junior partners, senior partners, equity partners, and so forth. This is because the most productive employees are given assignments by firm partners while less productive employees are routinely phased out to the point where they are no longer considered viable for promotion. Your ability to complete task, whether they are drafting pleadings, meeting with a client, or getting a cup of coffee for a senior partner and complete them well, can be the deciding factor in assessing whether you will should be assigned to given assignments involving a higher-value client, on a higher-profile case, and whether you are worthy of promotion within the firm.
Here are some straightforward tips on how to be a standout employee in your law firm.
You Actually Enjoy Your Job and Complete Projects with Enthusiasm
The most well-regarded legal professionals actually enjoy their jobs. They approach complex cases, difficult clients, and other matters with a sense of joy and enthusiasm. You need to display this level of fervor to truly standout at your law firm. This means you need to make sure you are working in an area of the law that you truly enjoy, you are working with people you like spending long hours with, and you are in an environment that you enjoy and feel comfortable in. If you do not enjoy where you work, it may make sense to speak with a legal staffing agency or legal recruiting firm to explore your professional options.
Treat Everyone with Respect and Decency
Law firms are part of the service industry. This means that a profitable law firm has clients who are happy with the representation or service they receive and will pay their legal bills in full and on time. As a result, you need to make sure you treat everyone with respect, decency, and as if like they are a high-dollar client. The employees who stand out at law firms developing an understanding of the personalities and preferences of firm leadership. This allows them to anticipate their needs without requiring the firm partner or senior executive to affirmatively ask that a task be completed. The employee knows what it takes to impress the firm partner or executive. The same principals apply to colleagues and mid-level managers within the firm. You want to be the employee that other employee’s trust to get things done and to achieve objectives.
Being a standout employee at a law firm is akin to being a rock star waiter at a five star restaurant. A top-notch waiter is someone who knows when to fill a water glass, when to take an order, how to time bringing out an appetizer and main course, and when to present the customer with the bill. It is crafting a level of anticipatory skills that allow you to make sure important needs of firm leadership are addressed on an ongoing basis.
Treating all of your colleagues with respect and dignity is absolutely critical as well. This means if, for example, you utilized a Florida legal recruiter and you are now a new associate at a big law firm, you should not let that success go to your head and start talking down to paralegals or other administrative professionals. You should always remember that these people are your colleagues and on your “team.” Also, you do not want to make the mistake of being rude or condescending to a paralegal who works for a firm partner. Such conduct can doom your prospects of advancement within the firm since many law firm partners depend on their paralegals and respect their input on important matters (including promotion decisions).
TYou are Proactive in Cultivating Your Reputation
An important way to standout in a law firm is to ensure that your reputation around the office is associated with being reliable, enthusiastic and someone who can get things done. That is why you need to make sure that whenever you receive a work assignment, it should be top priority on your to-do list.
A big mistake many law firm employees make is failing to approach important projects with zeal and submitting a sub-part work product. Whether you are drafting a pleading, taking a deposition, or simply copying 3,000 pages of discovery material, you need to make sure the project gets done on time and correctly. If you produce work product that is anything less than your very best, it exposes you to criticism by the firm partners.
Do not let this happen. Make sure to develop a strong reputation for being reliable, prompt, detailed, and, above all else, professional in all that you do. As Forbes Magazine puts it, “do an excellent job with every task, every day.”
Always Look for Ways to Improve
There is a reason they call it the “practice” of law. It is because there is no perfect, immutable legal professional. Even if you submit high quality work product consistently to your supervisor(s), you should be asking for constructive feedback and taking proactive steps to improve yourself. For example, if you are completing work assignments at a high level, you should ask if the firm needs assistance with business development projects. If you are a new litigator, you should ask firm partners if you can attend a trial and watch the partners.
You need to show that you want to learn everything you can about the practice of law, the firm you are working for, and how you can keep improving as a legal professional, whether that is an associate, a lateral partner, a paralegal or other staff person.