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So, now, I am a fountain pen. Oops, sorry � that’s the apocryphal bar mitzvah story you probably know: During his bar mitzvah ceremony, the boy stands up to give the requisite spiel about this life transition � his “Now, I am a man” speech. The boy is so focused on the presents he has received, however, that he accidentally begins, “Now, I am a fountain pen.” On Jan. 1, I became the 26th partner in the Supreme Court and appellate practice group at Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw, one of the 10 largest law firms in the world. Obviously, I was thrilled to learn that my colleagues thought highly enough of me to elevate me to the partnership. But in the past couple of months, I’ve also thought a lot about that hapless 13-year-old and about what, in this day and age, the transition to partnership really means. There was a time � or so I am told � when partnership really was the brass ring: You could rest on your laurels and let associates work to support you in the lifestyle to which you would rapidly become accustomed. But no one � or at least no one who has spent any time at a big law firm in the past decade or two � thinks that is the case today. For starters, at most if not all major law firms, partners put in far more hours on average than associates on the various tasks that make a law firm tick: client work, firm committees, pro bono, administrative tasks, and business development. So what, from my position as partner-for-less-than-a-month, does the transition really mean? There can be no doubt that there are significant upsides to being a partner. So far, I’ll admit, the changes have been relatively minor: higher compensation; a bigger office; a bunch of complimentary � and deeply appreciated � calls and e-mails from clients, colleagues at Mayer, Brown, and lawyers at other firms; a slightly lower stress level than before the partnership vote. Though no fountain pens. But the point of my fountain pen anecdote is that transitions aren’t just about the benefits. Although the upsides � the fountain pens � are surely easy to quantify, the real question to ask at any transition concerns what comes next: What are the new goals to reach and the new hurdles to leap? Of course, just as it seems a bit absurd to ask a 13-year-old boy what it means to be a man, so, too, it is presumptuous for me to purport to know anything about what it means to be a partner. That said, those in my position probably think about it far more than either someone who has been a partner for a while or someone who has yet to cross this threshold. Perhaps my newbie’s perspective will be at least mildly interesting. Just like the bar mitzvah boy’s transition to adulthood entails a change in responsibilities, so, too, the responsibilities of a partner differ in kind from those of an associate. As everyone knows, all partners in this day and age are expected to bring in business. There was a time when most corporate law firms had established relationships with a set of institutional clients that sent most or all of their legal work to the firm, year in and year out. In that era, many partners thrived professionally merely by serving those clients well. But that simply isn’t the case anymore: Companies hire lawyers rather than firms, work with lawyers at dozens of law firms at any given time, and frequently change law firms with almost no notice. Thus, as one of my mentors recently reminded me, “In the modern era, new partners must quickly learn to swim on their own, lest they soon sink like a stone.” Gulp. How about a fountain pen instead? But while these words of advice certainly have the ring of truth to them, I am starting to believe that, in an important way, they are also wrong. It is true, of course, that to become a productive member of the partnership I need to start developing my own business. At the same time, I feel, as part of a partnership, as if I have a whole squad of boosters to help me in that process. Associates at Mayer, Brown are treated as valued colleagues. Even so, and somewhat to my surprise, being a partner simply feels different. As I have discovered, the corollary to my fiduciary duties to my partners is that they, too, recognize their fiduciary duties to me. Thus, as I have begun to explore ways to bring in business, I have received at every turn all sorts of assistance from other partners at the firm. To me, this sense of being part of a team has been the single most unexpected aspect of becoming a partner. I would have presumed that such camaraderie existed in a partnership of three or four attorneys, of course. But Mayer, Brown has more than 400 partners. The road ahead is long, and navigating it will surely be tricky � but it really is great to know that I have all of these supporters to help me along the way. And perhaps in several years, I’ll be in a position to write an article about being a partner in which I can actually give some useful advice! David M. Gossett is a newly minted partner in the D.C. office of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw, where he specializes in Supreme Court and appellate litigation. Last spring � while still an associate � Gossett argued his first case in the Supreme Court, which he won unanimously. His most recent feature forLegal Times was an article, co-authored with Bill Olsen, about the pitfalls that summer associates should avoid.

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