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What does it mean to become a partner in a law firm? Legal Times surveyed a handful of partners, both brand new and longtime, and asked them one question: How did your life change when you became partner? William Curtin Hogan & Hartson I’m one of those native sons of Hogan & Hartson; I came here as a summer associate and came back to the firm right after law school. I’ve had a very positive experience. I work on international business transactions now, so by definition I have cross-cultural experiences on a daily basis. I became a partner in 2003. Partnership has allowed me to expand upon my client relationships. While I was fortunate to be called upon by clients at a fairly early stage in my career, elevation to partner gave me additional credibility with clients and facilitated my interaction with partners both inside and outside the firm. The international reach of Hogan & Hartson, with more offices outside than inside the United States, attracted me to the firm as an associate. Practicing as a partner has made working on deals with clients and lawyers from other countries and cultures a lot easier to navigate and, frankly, a lot more gratifying. I also have encountered as a young partner additional opportunities and responsibilities within my firm, including my involvement in Hogan & Hartson’s international expansion. Finally, partnership presents another opportunity to be a positive role model within the firm and the larger community. In the firm, I would like to mentor and promote younger lawyers in much the same spirit that I benefited from when I was an associate; in the community, to the extent that my current position allows me to serve others by establishing educational scholarships and mentoring young persons, then I will have realized yet another benefit of partnership at Hogan & Hartson. Leslie Thornton Dickstein Shapiro I started my legal career as a public defender here in the District, then I went to two law firms doing litigation. I then spent eight years with the Clinton administration as deputy chief of staff and chief of staff to the education secretary. I also was onthe President’s Transition Team in 1992, vetting the President’s Cabinet and sub-Cabinet selections, and I was on the President’s debate team in 1996. After the Clinton administration, I joined Patton Boggs as a partner in the public policy group. When I started at Patton, I felt that I had less overall adjustment issues than people advised I would, in part because I had been an associate at two firms and also because Patton is a firm that, like more and more Washington firms, places significant value on high-level government experience. What I found challenging in rejoining private practice as a partner was the effort it takes to balance the time I needed to spend bringing in business with the time I needed to spend producing quality legal work for my clients. But I very much enjoyed the autonomy and flexibility of being back in private practice. In 2004, I decided to join Dickstein Shapiro [Morin & Oshinsky] due in large part to its excellent reputation and commitment to diversity. Although it normally takes time to acclimate to any new environment, currently I am enjoying working collaboratively with my partners at Dickstein Shapiro and I like its close-knit feel. Also, partners are both encouraged and incentivized to work together in a “the rising tide lift all boats” fashion, which provides lots of opportunity to cross-sell, etc. I have had good experiences already both in bringing in business outside of my area and with working with my partners on matters within my fields. While in my short view, Dickstein Shapiro appears to have traditionally placed less emphasis on partners generating their own work, all firms are becoming more competitive in the legal marketplace. I like the good combination here of being able to generate work, without a lot of pressure, while also working on the firm’s important client matters. I also very much enjoy working closely with the other four black partners at Dickstein Shapiro, as well as the 14 or 15 black associates, and I am heartened by Dickstein Shapiro’s “put your money where your mouth is” commitment to the persistent issue of low diversity at the partnership level at law firms. I think that one of the big challenges for partners is not just finding a firm whose practice areas and emphasis are consistent with your own interests and strengths, but also one whose culture and environment embrace you and your core values. Julian Kim Latham & Watkins I became partner at Latham & Watkins twice, so I have two slightly different perspectives on the challenges facing young partners. My entire associate life was at Latham & Watkins, from 1993 to 2000, and I became a partner in 2001. I left Latham & Watkins for a position in the Treasury Department in September 2001 and then returned as a partner in late October 2004. One significant change for a new partner is moving away from an atmosphere where the quality of your work, the ability to assist clients, and how you do that are front and center. As you progress through senior associate life, the expectation is that you need to start acting more like a partner. You still cross somewhat of a divide when you become a partner, even though your day-to-day life changes little, if at all. The difference is that you still have to continue doing everything that made you a successful senior associate while thinking more and more strategically about where you and your practice are going to be three, five, seven years from now. Of course, making partner is a huge event, and in a sense it’s like a big gate that you have managed to get through. So that part has been lifted, but it wasn’t as if I got up in the morning and suddenly the sun was shining more brightly. You realize that you have another set of expectations you have to meet as best you can. I certainly hoped to return to Latham & Watkins as a partner after my service in the Treasury Department, and I am gratified that those here agreed with that! This is a wonderful place to practice law, and the fact that I’m here answers the question of where I felt I would have best opportunities for my career. The interesting thing is that it often feels as if I had never left, yet I also realize that I am a different person with broader experience compared to when I left. I expect and hope that my firm will look to me, take advantage of that experience, and help the tax practice and the firm as a whole grow and succeed. More generally, my time in government reinforced my belief that the folks who are successful as partners, and lawyers generally, often are those who are able to look outward as much as possible rather than being caught up completely in the matters they have. The challenge is that as the legal profession becomes more and more a business, it becomes harder to find the time to do that. Nevertheless, as a partner, you are expected to stand on your own two feet, and part of that may involve recognizing the need to have broadening experiences outside of what you may be able to have at your firm. It is very helpful to periodically stop, look around, and assess your plans for becoming an effective, successful lawyer. I believe that includes understanding what are the best sets of skills and experiences to have, and where you can get them. A legal career hopefully is measured in decades, so spending a few years doing something different should be put into that context. Timothy Brown Arent Fox I became a partner at Watt, Tieder, Killian & Hoffar in 1990 and joined Arent Fox as a partner in 1998. It’s not so much making partner as what goes with it. Before, I was a legal artist. (Well, sometimes anyway, sometimes merely a craftsman, and sometimes a soldier or even a quarterback, all depending on the matter at hand.) I worked hard, but there was only the stress of competition and performance, and most of us who choose to “litigate” thrive on that. It is the partner’s role in finding and keeping clients that changes everything; now I have to be a businessman too. That’s not nearly as fun, and in some ways, it’s more stressful. Plus there’s the stress of managing other people: How much fun is that? And last but not least, since by convention law firms are partnerships, there’s having a say (theoretically at least) in firm management. Herding cats is supposed to be tough, but have you ever tried herding lawyers? John O’Connor Steptoe & Johnson First, of course, there were the financial changes that come with being self-employed as opposed to being a salaried employee with a steady paycheck. It’s hard to explain to your nonlawyer wife how the partner compensation system works when she’s used to the regularity of a salaried employee. Also, it seems to me that associates probably returned my calls quicker once I made partner. With respect to work, it was a transition period that in some ways can be very challenging. You’re often still working on cases that were staffed when you were an associate. Your role in the cases likely will change, but at the same time, it’s not a certainty that you are going to be able to shed associate-type responsibilities while still accumulating partner-type responsibilities. I do think what’s easier is that the juggling is a little different. It’s easier to say no to work when you really don’t have the time. You’re coming from a time (as a senior associate hoping to make partner) when you were least likely to say no to work even if you really didn’t have the time to do it. Also, as a partner, it can be easier to find people to do some work if you’re overburdened. There’s a difference between taking on everything, and stretching yourself. Now it’s your business. You can hurt your business if you’re taking on too much. As a partner you can be a little more honest about your workload. About changing offices, there are considerations that go into that. One is whether you can switch into a partner office while remaining in reasonable proximity to your secretary. If I’m three floors away from my secretary, that wouldn’t help me with what I do. More and more, for younger partners, our secretarial needs are different. If my secretary is doing word processing, and she’s a few floors away, it’s no big deal. But if her function is helping me get things out the door, I need her nearby. In terms of client relationships, there’s already some expectation that a senior associate has a role. As a senior associate, you’re building a relationship with current clients, and a lot of clients already know them. When you make partner, which I did in 2004, many will see it as a stamp of approval from the firm. It does project something about you, and that can have a positive effect on how you’re viewed by clients and opposing counsel. Finally, within the firm, when you go to lunch with the partners now, they’re a lot more likely to talk shop! David Gelfand Cleary Gottlieb My background is that I became a partner in 1997. I graduated from law school in 1987 and spent four years at a litigation boutique firm. Then I came to Cleary [Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton] with the intention of eventually leaving and starting a smaller practice, but I really came to love it here at the firm. A lot of people come up through the firm, and making partner is what they’re focused on. I hadn’t planned that. What changed my mind is how much I enjoyed the firm and the people, and I realized I wanted to spend rest of my career here. What I tell people is that the most significant change that I discovered after becoming partner is the whole range of administrative duties that came with the position. Suddenly, I’m getting financial reports every month, I’m on the committee concerned with hiring decisions, etc. My practice itself did not change overnight, and you don’t suddenly gain knowledge and insight that you didn’t have before. It’s a maturing process; a new partner is not suddenly capable of doing the same things as a senior partner. It’s a process. Lawyers continue to develop through their careers. The second change for me was that it just settled for me where I was going to be. Before, I wondered: Where am I going to end up? By the time I was elected partner, I was very committed to this firm; I really wanted it by that time. Once that election occurs it brings you a kind of security that you didn’t have before. Until that happens and you know you’ve got that position, you don’t know what you are going to be doing. On the other hand, I was confident that I would have found something good (if I didn’t become a partner). I think that’s an emotion that a lot of people go through. As for developing new clients, for me that is part of the bigger element, which is the ownership aspect. You really become a part owner of a business so it’s just an extension of your administrative responsibilities. You are more inclined to do things that are good for the future of the firm. We all have the obligation to go out and make sure that prospective clients know what we have to offer. You feel it more once you’re a part owner of the firm. It’s a lot of pressure. But I can also tell you that our firm is a little different because we operate on a tier system. Our compensation is based on the level of seniority, not on how much business we bring in or how much we work. We don’t have an internal competition about who brought in most clients. It’s a wonderful environment. We don’t foster that kind of internal competition that most law firms do. We spend zero time worrying about that. It’s good to be able to focus more on practicing law and running the place. We also have wonderful clients who have used us for years and have a need for lots of our services. When you’re blessed to have really good clients, while there’s always pressure to generate more clients, it’s not the same kind of pressure. Peter Connolly Holland & Knight My situation is atypical. I was with Koteen & Naftalin, a small telecom firm, and became a partner in 1989. There, when I went from associate to partner, my work didn’t change much. We were, I believe, a 10-person firm at that time. I continued pretty much what I was doing, but there was a gradual increase of responsibility over time, mainly after I became a partner. I was glad to become a partner, but it didn’t alter my life in any big way at the time. Our firm merged into Holland & Knight in March 2000, and we all came over as partners. H&K is a big firm, about 1,200 lawyers in offices across the country. In a little firm, everybody knows everybody else and responsibilities are allocated informally. In a large firm, inevitably, there is more structure and hierarchy. Conflict reviews, for example, are inevitably more complicated and time-consuming, and decisions must be made through committees and other more formal bodies. At the heart of it, though, practicing law is still essentially the same. I feel fortunate, though, that I didn’t have to go through the “associate to partner” evaluation process in a large firm, even a firm which strives to be fair, as ours does. It’s harder to be an associate now; it’s a tough legal market out there. Joseph Hernandez Greenberg Traurig My life changed in many important ways after becoming a shareholder in 2004. It felt great to know that the shareholders I worked with thought enough of me to consider me their partner. I now have the opportunity to build my own practice. I am fortunate to be part of a law firm that encourages its shareholders to be entrepreneurial and develop their practices. It’s exciting to now be in a position to take advantage of the incredible platform this law firm provides to build a practice. The increase in compensation and benefits is another important change. I must admit, it’s nice to make more money but it’s more exciting to me to be able to shape my own career.

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