Reading the Tea Leaves

It’s that time of year again when law firms will be making decisions about who has a future. Given the way the message is often delivered (i.e. indirectly and in a manner intended not to offend the associate), not everyone understands when all signs point to the door. Sometimes, work assignments begin to dry up. Other times, the partner tells the associate that maybe the firm isn’t the right fit anymore. The “Snark” in Atlanta has more on the subject here for those of you who are not good at reading between the lines. This past Spring, my colleague Carey Bertolet also had a good article on the subject.

One way to avoid getting broad sided at a firm is be active in seeking out feedback. Don’t wait for your annual review to find out that your writing needs work. It is also worth learning how to be better at taking criticism. I wrote about that subject just after 9/11.

But fundamentally, the “Snark” has it right. When a firm is very busy and cannot afford to lose associates, the message you receive may be unduly optimistic. After all, there is work to be done. But when work slows down, that is when you’ll find out your true long term value to the firm.

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