Letter To A New Partner

There seems to be many more resources available to review and critique the legal profession than there are for the accounting profession. There are also at least two big name firms that specialize in consulting primarily to law firms, Altman Weil and Hildebrandt. I often find interesting articles that could apply to accounting professionals on their sites, as well as on the WSJ Law Blog and similar sites.

This one’s from Legal Times. A subscription is required to see the full article, but you can get a free thirty day trial by signing up. I have found the subscription to be worthwhile, even for a simple accountant like me.

By Brian H. Corcoran
Letter to a New Partner
Keep hold of your humility, stay centered, and start (or keep) having fun

…in the days that follow, after the congratulatory dinners and cocktail parties have ended, the average newly minted partner is also likely to nurse a few doubts about his or her new title. Some of this is just bred in the bone; lawyers, risk-averse by nature, are genetically inclined to look for storm clouds on the brightest of horizons….So, with the appropriate nod to the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, whose Letters to a Young Poet inspires this list, I’d like to propose the following admonitions that every new partner might contemplate:

• Remember how it began. Although the most pompous of partners may behave as if they sprang fully clothed, Greek mythologically speaking, from the head of a Supreme Court justice, this is not true. All of us were once first-year associates…

• Keep telling yourself: I’m a professional! We are always hearing these days about how law has become a business. Becoming a partner leads to even greater exposure to the business side of private practice, from preparing bills to generating new clients, all of which are very important to keeping the “lights on” in the office, so to speak. But, the last time I checked, lawyers were not MBAs …We are part of an honorable tradition that counsels and guides the uninitiated, our clients, through what can seem like a morass of confusing laws and regulations. We are trusted to regulate ourselves and also keep the “pipes clean,” by questioning and challenging the processes and guidelines that define how disputes are resolved, all with the goal of making them as transparent and fair as possible. We are more than hired guns — even when our clients tell us otherwise. …

• “Be the ball, Danny.” Such is the zen-master advice Chevy Chase gave the young hero of the classic comedy “Caddyshack,” but I’d give it in modified form to any new partner as well. To me, it means stay centered, stick to your knitting. …

• Start (or keep) having fun. The guys who founded the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream brand (conveniently named “Ben” and “Jerry”) famously established, as their corporate motto, “If it’s not fun, why do it?” Not surprisingly, this principle is not likely to be embraced fully by most law firms. …At bottom, becoming a partner is the next big step in what one hopes will prove to be a long career. If you can make it to your old age and still look forward to coming into the office, you will have successfully taken to heart my advice. (I hope I’m still alive then, and doing the same, so that you can thank me personally.)