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Lisa Cleary is pure kinetic energy. The Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler partner spins in her desk chair to retrieve a document from her office shelves. She whirls back with a checklist in hand. The list has about 50 specific categories — taking and defending depositions, working on a preliminary injunction hearing and so on — and either Cleary or the other assigning partner in Patterson’s litigation department will complete one for each of the firm’s 70-plus litigation associates. Twice a year, associates sit down with an assigning partner for about an hour to run through the list and set out their goals: Patterson partners say that associates who chart their own development are more likely to be happy associates. This particular checklist is scribbled with Cleary’s notes tracking an associate’s progress. “These are things we would like every associate to have the opportunity to do over time,” says Cleary, who in addition to assigning cases and counseling associates manages a full caseload of her own.

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