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There is a temptation, as junior lawyers become seasoned midlevel and senior associates, to forget some of the anxiety and uncertainty that can accompany the earliest years of practice, and to treat junior lawyers with annoyance, indifference, disdain and even disrespect. Indeed, an attitude of superiority, bossiness (and in some extreme instances, cruelty) can creep into the increasingly-senior associate’s relationships with junior lawyers. Let’s examine some ways to improve such relationships (from the senior lawyer’s perspective). Start with the root causes of the sometimes bad attitudes of senior associates toward their junior colleagues. For some, it is simply a matter of habit and imitation. They may have been mistreated themselves by senior lawyers, at earlier periods in their careers. They may seek to impress other senior lawyers today with their merciless pursuit of perfection. Or, they may simply be so hard-charging (and often hard on themselves) that they expect their subordinates to kowtow and follow all orders instantaneously, and to the letter. Most often, they are ignorant of the adverse effects that their overbearing attitudes can have on their junior colleagues, and unaware of specific steps they can take to avoid (or at least mitigate) such adverse effects. The first key to improvement, therefore, is awareness. Good relationships with junior lawyers do matter, for a number of reasons. Junior lawyers do much of the hard work on major projects. Their support can be critical to completing such projects on time, and effectively (and, conversely, their enmity, active or passive, can seriously degrade the senior associate’s performance). Indeed, the perceived ability of senior associates to manage and motivate junior lawyers is one critical measure of the senior associate’s effectiveness (and may thus have an effect on the senior associate’s partnership potential). The world of a law firm, moreover, is often a very close social environment. Shouting matches, slammed doors, tears and other outbursts (together with the inevitable gossip that goes with them) cannot remain hidden. Thus, a senior associate with a persistently negative attitude toward juniors may find the wellspring of good feeling and collegiality in the office poisoned. What, then, of solutions, to avoid becoming known as an office martinet? To begin, focus on other senior lawyers in the office who appear to effective in their relationships with juniors. Indeed, think of your own experiences a junior lawyer. Who were the (one or two) best senior lawyers to work for, and why? Reviewing your mental notes on the subject may be a good start. Speaking directly with these positive role models may give you even further insight. The same is true as you look about the office today. Who has a good reputation for relationships with junior lawyers, and why? Spend just the smallest amount of time investigating this simple question, and you may enjoy substantial rewards in insight, and development of new behaviors. Recognize that laxity of discipline and seeming casual indifference to detail is not the point. Indeed, many junior lawyers complain not because they are too closely supervised, but because they receive incomplete direction and instruction, only to be chided when they fail to perform as expected. Often, sharing your own good habits of organization, punctuality and preparation with junior lawyers can pay great benefits, both in inspiring juniors to become more effective, and in showing them the practical means to do so. Finally, good communication is always a key element in any positive relationship. Make yourself available for questions from junior lawyers, as they perform their tasks. Give encouragement and suggestions where appropriate, and correct errors where necessary. Do not harbor (unstated) criticism, or exorcise your frustration by taking work away from subordinate with the huffy “I’ll just have to do it myself” refrain. Think of junior lawyers as your future colleagues (perhaps your future partners). Even if you do not practice law with them for the rest of your professional life, you may see them again (as adversaries, clients, and even judges). What goes around comes around. Steven C. Bennett is a partner in the New York City offices of Jones Day and a member of the firm’s training committee. His publications include: The Path to Partnership: A Guide For Junior Associates, (Praeger 2004).

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