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One of the hardest transitions for any lawyer in a large law firm is the change from being the junior lawyer following someone else’s instructions to being the senior associate in charge of and supervising the work of junior associates. Just when you are getting used to being an associate and you are mastering more and more skills, the firm asks you to start working with and teaching the younger associates. Now instead of complaining about the boss, you are the boss. The irony is almost poetic. Everyone has a war story or two about dealing with a difficult boss. You don’t have to be that kind of boss. This column will offer some insights on how to be a good supervisor, and more importantly, how not to become the kind of boss who becomes the subject of war stories. MOTIVATE The practice of law is getting more competitive and more hectic. Firms are looking for everyone to be more productive and efficient. One of the primary responsibilities of being a good supervisor is to motivate people. It is incumbent on you to take the steps necessary to get the very best work out of people in an efficient and timely manner. This is not something that they taught you in law school. It is not a lawyering skill, but a management skill. Whole books have been written on motivating people, and we will not delve into any heady theories about how to do it. However, we can tell you what not to do. We are not telling you anything new when we say that fear is not a good way to motivate people. No doubt, you remember a time early in your career when a more senior lawyer scared you stiff about an assignment, and in the process, caused you needless aggravation and lost sleep. In the current environment, motivating young lawyers by scaring them is nothing more than a veiled invitation for them to change careers. You can scare someone into their best work once or twice, but over the long term, the law of diminishing returns kicks in. Instead, you can motivate people by making them a part of the team and part of a group effort. Make sure they understand why what they are doing is important and where it fits into the structure of the case or the deal. Do you need to motivate a junior associate to stay up all night to work on a due diligence project? Instead of making them afraid of your wrath or the displeasure of a senior partner if they fail to stay all night to get it done, make them understand why it is necessary and important for the due diligence to be done by the next day. It is human nature to strive to achieve, and as a supervisor, you have to harness that desire. It boils down to a simple rule: It is better to make the junior associate feel like part of your team rather than part of a team against you. COMMUNICATION IS KEY If you have been supervising a junior associate on a three-week project and learn the night before it is due that it was not done right, whose fault is it? You are far from blameless. An integral part of supervising other lawyers is communicating with them and reviewing their work. Check in with them at regular intervals to make sure that everything is going according to plan. Ask to see drafts of documents before the deadline to review their work. Stress that you are available to answer questions that arise along the way and are there to help make sure the job gets done in the best way possible. Every attorney struggles with time management and how to juggle time more effectively. Do not wait for avoidable timing problems to arise. You will lower everyone’s stress level, and create better work product, if you keep open channels of communication. There is a related danger. In your exuberance to be an effective communicator, you can become a micro-manager. You have to give people the time and space to get the job done. Nonetheless, we think you will be able to strike the right balance. If someone groans when you call, you are calling too much and need to relax. POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT If you want someone to do a good job next time, be sure to tell them about the good job that they did this time. Rewarding hard work and dedication with sincere praise is often overlooked and yet it is terribly important. Saving good words for a performance review is not enough, in fact it is most often too late and too disconnected. If someone stayed up all night to do a bang-up due diligence project and they get the impression that their hard work and dedication is simply forgotten, how motivated are they going to be for the next project? Also, do not limit your kind words to one-on-one meetings, if your junior associate does a good job make sure to tell the whole team. Has a client and a senior partner praised your team’s work? Make sure the whole team knows about it, because motivation is not just about individual achievement. AVOID BAD ROLE MODELS If you do not like working for your boss, chances are you are not alone. Therefore, you should not try to emulate your leader’s style on the theory that it works for them. Look at who you have liked working with and who has managed to challenge you while getting you to do the best work. One of the advantages of working in a large firm is the abundance of senior lawyers to learn from. Working for a bad boss can be as informative as working for a good one. Try to remember what you complained about if you were not happy working for someone as a junior associate. Moreover, be critical of yourself. You can also adopt the different techniques of people you liked working for in the past. The process of becoming a good manager and motivator is a never-ending one. You are always learning and trying out new techniques. Be true to yourself, and as everyone knows it is best to treat others in a way that you would like to be treated. And one other thing. For those junior associates who have worked for the two of us over the years: Thank you for your patience while we struggled to learn to be supervisors and for your collective senses of humor. Jeffrey A. Fuisz is counsel and Alison McKinnell is an associate at Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler LLP

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