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The new reality-based television programs can teach us many important and useful things. Almost everyone would be well-served to live their lives based on what they can pick up from “Big Brother” and the like. This is is especially true of lawyers who can learn the importance of forging alliances. No lawyer is an island. And just like on “Survivor”‘s Island, alliances with other players are critical to one’s existence and success at The Firm. Failing to participate in an alliance can mean high-risk exposure that can cost you your position. Creating and nurturing the right alliances can mean controlling your own destiny. From the day you start at The Firm, you need to get the lay of the land and know who is who. You want to size up the others and decide how to go about allying with those who can help you and plotting against those who pose a threat. You’ll start off with targeting another first-year associate and use the same skills someday later in your career when you decide to take on and perhaps oust the managing partner. The need for alliances is obvious from the day you start at The Firm. Partnership positions are few. The number of associates vying for these positions are many. You will need to create an alliance to eliminate the competition one by one. From the start, expect to spend approximately a third of your time nurturing alliances and forcing out your rivals at The Firm. That will still leave a majority of your time for practicing law. There are identifiable groups at The Firm you can target for your alliance. While The Firm may at first look to you like a big bunch of lawyers just thrown together, it is in fact a collection of groups — groups just waiting for an alliance. Identify a group, and go to work getting its members to join you in your efforts. BUILDING BLOCKS � Law school attended. A natural point of connection from which to start recruiting allies at The Firm is where you went to law school. You actually may have used this to get into The Firm by seeking out lawyers from your alma mater who would put in a good word for you. If your law school is not that well represented at The Firm, you may need to expand the concept. You might, for example, include those who went to schools in the same athletic conference. For example, if you graduated from Northwestern, you might want to form a Big 10 alliance with those who went to Michigan, Ohio State, etc. � Practice groups. The clearest division at The Firm is usually between litigators and corporate attorneys. Litigators don’t consider corporate attorneys to be real lawyers while corporate attorneys think litigators are uncivilized individuals who should be called upon only in case of emergency. You can always count on your type of lawyer to come to your defense should you go up against a lawyer for another group. If, for example, you commit major malpractice, always look to someone in the other group to point your finger at. Lawyers in your camp will support you. The important thing here is to know how the numbers stack up. Figure out which department is bigger and practice that type of law. It may not be what you want to do for a living, but you’ll have more supporters when you need them. � Personality. Lawyers often simply dislike each other, and they express these feelings by fighting over associates and staff, sabotaging each other’s careers and reporting other lawyers to the State Bar. Get into an alliance that suits your personality. Your personality, of course, should be that you want to thrive at The Firm. Pick out the strongest alliance and adapt. � Seniority. In the good old days, law firms followed compensation schemes based largely on seniority. More recently, however, younger partners have developed new formulas to distribute The Firm’s revenues based on the productivity of individual lawyers. This has created resentment among members of the old guard who aren’t getting paid as much as they expected for sitting around and doing nothing. Still, many of the senior attorneys wield more power at The Firm than others, and you may want to invite a few of the old guys to join your alliance. � Force of habit. The origins of certain alliances go back to the time when individual faction leaders were junior associates. As young lawyers at The Firm, the alliance leaders developed rivalries between each other that have not only survived, but also become more intense over the years. Such hard feelings are transferred to other alliance members and passed down from generation to generation of lawyers. Thus, you will need to re-evaluate your alliances periodically. Some attorneys try to stay above the fray by not joining any Firm alliance. They instead concentrate on their work and on doing a good job for the client. This always proves futile, however, because these lawyers are on their own against the many alliances. When it comes time to vote a lawyer off The Firm, these are the first ones to go. The Rodent is a syndicated columnist whose columns are distributed by American Lawyer Media and author of “Explaining the Inexplicable: The Rodent’s Guide to Lawyers.” His e-mail address is THE [email protected]

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