How Cogs Can Distinguish Themselves

The “Snark” effectively uses his sarcasm to articulate how large firm associates can move from being a “cog” to becoming a partner. The key is to try and distinguish yourself from the pack. Doing great work and billing a lot of hours will not set you apart from any of the other associates who are doing the same thing. He suggests 3 ways to effectively distinguish yourself: 1. cultivate your relationship with your rich uncle who is head of mergers and acquisitions of Ubercorp, 2. develop a marketable niche and 3. hitch your wagon to a powerful partner.

These are all good suggestions but only one of them is easily achievable regardless of your background: develop a niche. Developing a niche does not mean that you will not do other types of work. The “niche” is what you use to market yourself. Pretty much anyone can develop a niche. All you have to do is start writing and speaking about a subject and suddenly, the world will see you as an expert (maybe this is a little simplistic, but you get the idea.) Just beware of the “pigeon hole”.

Having rich and powerful family members who can give work back to your firm is not something that most associates can claim. But learning how to make rain is important and it is never too soon to start. Furthermore, almost any associate can get out of the office and begin cultivating business relationships. So if you don’t have a rich uncle, start thinking about building those relationships outside of the firm. It is unlikely that you will receive encouragement to do this when you are a junior associate. But over time, these relationships will position you to generate work. More importantly, your business development potential will be seen as a very positive factor when you are up for partner.

Finally, while hitching your wagon to a powerful partner may increase your chances at partnership time, this is a risky strategy. Even if you are fortunate enough to develop a good working relationship with a particular partner, your read on that partner’s position in the firm may not be correct (you don’t attend partnership meetings and you are not privy to behind the scenes discussions amongst partners.) In addition, given the rate of change in the legal profession, that partner may leave and with his departure will go all of your political capital. A safer strategy is to get known by many partners and to volunteer to work on interdepartmental committees so that you cultivate relationships outside of your practice group.

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