Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Stupidity Of Associates With Golden Handcuffs

There are two types of law firm associates - those expected to lock themselves in an office and stay there 7 days a week, and those that are expected to bring in business.

I'm speaking to the latter.

Why are you so stupid?

Specifically, if your firm wants you to develop business, but won't help you learn how to develop business, why are you still working there? I know the answer - you're there for the paycheck. You're there because you have little self-worth.

Let me break this down. You are expected to bring in business, or you realize you won't be at the firm forever and want to learn how to bring in business and your firm is indifferent. By learning I mean attending a seminar about business development, or attending a CLE conference. One is coming up. You want to go, but you won't unless your firm will pay for it. You are interested in personal development that will lead to business development, but have other priorities when it comes to money, like going out to dinner and paying the lease on your car that you can't afford. So you won't pay for it, and then learn your firm won't pay for it. You get mad. You don't go. Rinse and repeat.

If you want to be a lawyer that can run their own practice, or pay for themselves at a firm and share in profits, it's important to hone those skills. To some, even though there's always things to learn, it's natural. To others, the concept of "rainmaking" or "business development" is completely foreign.

I am tired of hearing from those associates who want to learn about business development, but won't take a dollar out of their pocket to further their career. If your firm won't give you a day off or write a check for a few hundred dollars, they do not support your efforts to develop business.

If you stay there, you're a moron.

To go to work everyday annoyed that a law firm is holding you back from learning the business side of your profession, is a complete waste of a law degree. To fail to make a personal investment in learning the business side of law, if that's what you want to do, is shameful.

Nothing is free. To expect others to invest in your continuing legal education, and then when they don't, avoiding the concept of sticking your hand in your own pocket, is the best way to never be more than you are today.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.Share/Save/Bookmark


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this advice. I work for a firm that, because of our size and the nature of what we do, basically all of our attorneys are expected to play some role in bringing in new business. I was hired six months ago and though I've been repeatedly told that I and the other attorney who was hired when I was are expected to play a central role in marketing the firm, I've been given little actual guidance on how to do that, and have only very recently started to be included in the firm's marketing efforts. Of course this wouldn't bother me if someone had said "spend a year learning your job, and then we'll get in on the marketing efforts" but that isn't what was said and that isn't the impression I've been given, and I've been left wondering what I'm supposed to learn and when, and how I'm supposed to apply it.

I think things are starting to change, but I also realized what you say in your post: "You are interested in personal development that will lead to business development..." In other words, developing the ability to network and market is not only useful to my firm, but also useful to me personally, in anything I may want to do in life whether it's related to my own personal goals, or my professional goal, even if at some point I don't want to be an attorney anymore. So with that in mind I'm not going to be resentful if my firm dilly-dallies on getting me involved in marketing. I'll do it myself, to whatever extent they'll allow me to get involved. If they don't want to pay for things that would help me learn those skills, I'll pay for them myself as best as I'm able because what I learn will help me personally as much as it will help them. It's just about taking some initiative, and not sitting around waiting for someone to hold my hand and guide me through the process.

Anyway, thanks again for the advice. I plan on putting it into practice.

My Law License said...

I'm glad you got something out of the post. I expected immediate "you don't understand....." comment(s). Personal development that leads to business development is something that law firms either encourage, or discourage.

Discouraging a young lawyer (that wants to develop business) from learning the tools of the trade, is akin to locking someone in a basement. Except of course in the law firm model, there's a door from which to exit.

I understand young lawyers have debt, but to miss opportunities to attend conferences and seminars because a boss wont give you a couple hundred bucks, says more about the young lawyer than it does about the boss.

Rocky Sharwell said...

I am an appellate PD who on occasion pays my own way to CLE seminars that I want to attend. I look at as an investment in myself....

Keith Lee said...

Well said. Disappointing that the general consensus on my generation is that we "don't get it" when it comes to this topic. Are the clueless so prevalent?

I'm still in law school (graduate in Dec., take the Bar in Feb 2011) but am attempting to learn as much as I can about business development as I can now.

CLE classes and the like are good but if you can wade through the piles of social media BS, there are some good sources of information and resources available online to those who wish to learn about business development. Not to mention, you could just go out and pick up a book on the topic. If you are willing to go to *gasp* a library, you can read it for free.