Thursday, January 17, 2013

Becoming the Indispensable Cog Pt. 2

This is the second part in my um somewhat delayed but decidedly ongoing series in posts of how to make yourself an indispensable cog in the machine that is your slave-driving machination of treachery known as the firm.

Before we get to the actual quip, let me mention: (1) okay sorry my posts have been so delayed, for anybody who happens to be reading this blog with any regularity, but I suspect that number is low, (2) if any of you are wondering why it is worthwhile any beans to try and be an indispensable anything at a law firm, given that I can confidently say very few anythings are indispensable, the reason is...in an earlier post...but really it's about for those times when you want to bugger off and do your own thing when it's not busy and some partner is calling you to find you and always finds you gone...it gives you a buffer zone to do that kind of monkey shit. Really it does.

Okay, so this is like a lawyering level 2 lesson, or maybe 3. It's some advanced shit right here, but it pervades a lot of different aspects of the law firm experience, from when you pick your cage to when and how you escape.  And the crux of it is: presence.  You may have heard that as a buzzword thrown around a bunch, or maybe not, but I have, and you could be deaf (sorry), but that's it.  So I was talking to a friend's dad not too long ago - he is a senior name partner at his own firm, or was, which has been merged successively with other large firms, and is soon to retire.  And he told me, as other partners (who are friends because they used to be associates with me) have mentioned to me as well, that at most jobs, like this one, the learning curve will plateau after a while.  Law is no different, and in fact, is more or less part of that big bulge in the middle of the bell curve when it comes to being prosaically non-singular.  Most people who dawn that boring black suit and become a CML will learn what it takes to be a competent CML within a few years, and will learn what it takes to be a mid-level and senior CML within a few years of that, respectively. And while the variation can be slight - some people are seen as "super stars" or "smart" - by getting there maybe a year or so earlier, we all plateau.  Why?  Because the subject matter of our job is the stuff of brainless monkey slaves.  You don't have to be a rocket scientist or a neurosurgeon to be a lawyer.  Literally, you don't.  You don't have to have any major to go to law school.  You don't have to pass a very specific or reasonably difficult to get into or even get out of law school, or even go to law school for that matter. And you really don't have to do that much to get into a decent law firm.  You don't have to do much of anything.  So, how, then, do firms differentiate between "rising stars" who will join their brethren and those that will waste away in the gutter?  If being "smart" is just a difference in timing, and given the timing to get to the end of that road is getting longer and longer, then you can pretty much expect you will be even with everyone else.  So what do they look for?  The key is, just like with anything else in any normal society in the world (except may be socialist russia or communist china), stick your head out, get noticed, and command some fucking presence.  That's because, if you are remembered by them, you will be by clients too, and that's what important.  If you can get a client to say, "hey, I want that guy to work for me", then you will be on E-Z street (no, E-Z street is not a real street, it's another way of saying "easy street", dildo brain).  Okay, so that's it.  You can be diligent, hardworking, plenty smart, but at some point (I'd say after 2-4 years), you will not be in the eyes of your up and ups worthwhile if you do not command any presence.  Different firms may have different cultures, so this is where picking your firm is important.  When you pick some place, you should pick some place that accentuates your ability to thrive and make an impact - this will benefit you in the short and long-term.  When you eventually leave (say 5-6 years), you will have had a nice ride down E-Z street rather than a rough ass-raping down A-R railroad. 

In terms of what you need to do to "command presence" I leave up to you, but it could mean any of the following: (i) speaking when not spoken to, (ii) speaking up in front of a client or partner with something helpful, e.g., on a conference call when everyone has forgotten you are there, (iii) talking to people normally whether they be clients or partners or whoever (like, when you talk to someone nice, you are nice to them and exchange pleasantries meaningfully), (iv) becoming the commander of a mutant army made up of gift-wrapped boxes with bows on top.  So pick what you like. A little bit goes a long way.

command the shit outta these guys. do it.

7 comments:

  1. Combination of (iii) and the other basic social skills imo. It takes most people a while to realize that everything about the apparently elite environment they are in is just another kind of normal; acclimatizing to that quickly garners the right kind of attention.

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