Perhaps the most impactful way an established associate can help a lateral adapt to the firm's culture is by being accessible. Regardless of an attorney's years of practice or breadth of experience, being new to a firm with a well-defined culture is a challenge. A simple invitation to grab a cup of coffee or lunch with a lateral associate during his or her first few months of transition will go a long way. Not only will this help forge a relationship between the associate and the lateral, but it will also provide the lateral with a comfortable environment to discuss any challenges or concerns with adapting to the firm's culture or ask those lingering questions about best practices or ways to be more successful at the firm.
Like management, another important way an associate can help a lateral fit into the firm's culture is by communicating the firm's expectations. Of course, the firm's expectations with respect to billables, pro bono hours, firm investment requirements and things of that nature are generally the responsibility of a supervisor or senior partner. There still remain certain expectations or requirements that are unwritten, yet equally important for a lateral associate to understand in trying to fit in to the firm's culture and excel at the firm. If it is the firm's practice that all associates participate in a certain sporting event or outing, this is something a lateral associate should know. Similarly, if there's an optional charity benefit that is not actually optional at all, a heads up to the lateral associate is best. Communicating the firm's unwritten expectations will help a lateral associate truly understand the firm's culture and what it values. Equipped with a true understanding of the firm's culture, a lateral's transition into the firm will be much easier.
Finally, while it is certainly not the responsibility of a fellow associate to give a lateral associate feedback regarding his or her performance, a heads up when an associate sees the lateral dropping the ball that is, failing to do something in conformity with the firm's culture is very valuable. Existing associates should think about the things they wish they would have known about the firm's culture when starting out at the firm and make sure to communicate those things to a lateral associate joining the firm.
V. Amanda Witts is an attorney at the Tucker Law Group and alumni of Hampton University and Georgetown University Law Center. She serves as an elected member of the Barristers' Association of Philadelphia and practices in areas including employment law, commercial litigation and higher-education law.
Corey Osborn concentrates his practice on matters of employment discrimination, general commercial litigation and higher-education law. He is a graduate of Temple University's Beasley School of Law and currently serves as a mock trial coach at Overbrook High School.