Dec 22, 2010

The Stages of Law Firm Life

I apologize for the 3-month gap in blogging! I assure you that I have a good excuse, and I'll post a fall semester retrospective over the holidays . . . . I hope!

For now, let's just get back to the business of discussing the lawyer's calling:

The legal consultant Hildebrandt Baker Robbins has just posted a white paper, From 3L to 401(K): Seasons of an Attorney's Life, outlining the nine (!) stages in a lawyer's law firm journey. It will be helpful, or at least interesting, reading for any student thinking about the big firm track and for any lawyer currently on it-- at any stage of life. The nine stages are outlined with a detailed discussion of the changes in focus, goals, and gifts required in the lawyer's changing life in the law. Here are the stages:

1. Summer/Early Associate
2. Mid-Level Associate
3. Pre-Partner Associate
4. Early Partner
5. Mid-Level Partner
6. Practice Leader
7. Division Leader
8. Managment Committee Member
9. Managing Partner

Along the road through the stages, the paper sets out some basic, ever-so-obvious principles, but also a surprising number of real insights. For example, the list of the "four basic skills" that a summer associate or new hire is expected to develop ought to be required reading for all 1Ls:

1. Exhibiting self-discipline and emotional self control-- life in the firm is very different than law school.
2. Being a reliable and trusted contributor.
3. Coordinating complex tasks, including prioritizing work.
4. Functioning in small teams.

There are other nuggets as well. How many mid-level associates think of "developing junior staff" as part of their career goals? I imagine that a handful do, but if every mid-level associate had this in mind as a real "goal" during this career stage, those careers would be in much better shape. Likewise, the paper's advice on "serving two masters-- the client and the firm" to pre-partner associates and early partners is excellent.

In short, for some sound and insightful career advice, this is worth a look. (HT: ABA Journal).

The importance of "the journey" of development in a career is an interesting topic. I've been thinking, lately, in the midst of reading a series of books on Christian discipleship, about the "process" of becoming a mature disciple of Jesus. Why do I have to "grow into" being mature? Why is "instant sanctification" an oxymoron? Why is the redemption of the world a "process," at least from our temporal perspective? And why does "growth over time" seem to be ingrained in the created order-- even before the fall?

Process and growth -- the content of the journey, and not the end of the road -- seem to be key to understanding God's ways with us. Even Jesus, the perfect human being, "grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." Luke 2:52. Wow.

So, as we celebrate the incarnation and gaze on the baby Jesus, let us embarce the slowness of the process, the journey of growth, as we seek to grow in wisdom and in favor with God.

1 comment:

  1. Merry Christmas, Mike! Thanks for being a part of my journey. Your invitation for me to present at the Christian Scholars Symposium back in 2003 allowed me to meet Prof's Lee Kuk-woon and Lee Hee-eun from Handong Univ. in Korea (where, I heard you recently visited). Now, I'm preparing to return to faculty post there next year. Happy New Year!