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Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe’s fifth- and sixth-year associates got management’s full attention last month. In a two-day session, about 60 associates met with the San Francisco-based firm’s top partners, who shared success tips and also gave them a peek at the firm’s finances. Held at the Omni Hotel, the meeting was the first event Orrick has organized exclusively for mid- and senior-level associates. “The program was designed to address things they should be thinking about at this stage of development,” said John MacKerron, Orrick’s managing director for offices. Associates said the event was surprisingly informative. “These kinds of sessions can be a little amorphous,” said Nancy Harris, a litigation associate. But this program was “pretty concrete.” In one session, executive committee member Lynne Hermle explained what qualities the firm looks for in partner candidates. “They want to see associates who show they can take criticism well and turn it into a positive perspective, or take leadership in cases, or manage people well,” Harris said. “They’re not looking for people competing with other associates.” Associates also appreciated getting a detailed account of the firm’s financial situation. A session on law firm economics turned out to be lighthearted, corporate associate Scott Porter said. While Chief Operating Officer Douglas Benson provided information on profits per partner, Porter said associates were probing for other details, such as the range of partners’ pay and how compensation is decided. Associates said another highlight of the meeting was spending time with their peers around the country, sharing common concerns and experiences. The program ended with a question and answer session led by Chairman Ralph Baxter Jr., MacKerron and two other managers. “There were some very thoughtful questions about what it means to be partner, what it takes, how to balance things,” MacKerron said. “It was a very human interchange.” One associate asked them what they were thinking when they were in their fifth year of practice. While Baxter said he was focused on becoming a partner, MacKerron responded that he was thinking, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” MacKerron ended up leaving Orrick for five years to teach at the University of Toledo College of Law. “We’re at a level in our careers where people are deciding whether we want to do this,” Porter said. “It’s the time for people to prioritize their lives.”

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