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Most lawyers graduate law school with visions of making partner at a dream law firm. Ideally, they can make this happen in record time; realistically, it might be quite some time – and with a few hard knocks – before it actually comes to fruition. A. Harrison Barnes, who is a lawyer and also the founder, has a few tips for those who have their sights set on a partnership.

  • While you believe you have the formula for a twenty-four month plan that will get your name in big letters on the building, you must prepare yourself for the fact that most partnerships are forged after several years – and sometimes even a decade – with a firm. “It’s a slow dance, and like it or not, you’re not going to be the one leading that dance”, says the founder.
  • Also, since you’ve removed the rose colored glasses, this is also a good time to point out that only 30% of attorneys ever see this dream realized. That’s not to say it’s not going to happen, but you have to keep a healthy degree of reality attached to your dream.
  • You must also be able to bill hours – a lot of hours – but they must be legitimate. This means not only are you going to represent clients who walk away with the experience that you are the cure-all for the legal profession, but you’re going to have know those cases inside and out. You’ll be “on” even in your sleep and you’re prepared to answer any questions the partners have at any moment regarding your cases. It’s just part of the game, says A. Harrison Barnes.
  • Another important “must have” is a winning personality. You have to juggle office personnel, entitled clients who believe the world is theirs, partners who see 2,000 hours billed and want 2,500 and of course, your personal life. And you have to do it with a smile and confidence.
  • Acknowledge when you’re beating a dead horse. “There are those times when you realize the firm you’re with is just not going to be able to provide the opportunities you’re looking for”. Part of being a good lawyer is acknowledging those realizations and then making the tough decision to move on, says Barnes.
  • Finally, Barnes recommends keeping your options open and your membership dues paid. You never know when a networking session at the country club will lead to a new opportunity. Keep those bases covered and you’ll always be prepared.

You chose law as your career for more than just the potential of making partnership one day; you chose it because it is a true passion and a field where you know you can make a difference, no matter your chosen specialty. As you chase your dreams, don’t forget the other reasons that put you on that path.

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