- Qualifications to Work in Litigation
- Understanding and combating the causes of attrition
- Recipe for success
- Baseline traits
- Skills and knowledge
- Ability to learn
- Mental and Emotional Requirements
- HIPAA, the ADA and the ADEA
- Attitude: Delegation and Responsibility
- Physical Qualifications
- Drug Use
- Legal and Ethical Qualifications
- What It Takes To Become A Shareholder
- A Final Note
It is not unusual for a lawyer, particularly a younger attorney or someone new to the Firm, to ask what specific performance indicators and traits lead to improved salary and promotions. Less frequent but more important are the questions we face relating to what it takes to succeed as a litigator generally.
Almost unheard of is the legal professional who directly and unflinchingly confronts the ultimate question: Am I qualified for this job? Making it through an interview and receiving an offer of employment means that an employee has momentarily convinced us that he or she may be qualified and should be given an opportunity to prove it. Rarely do we encounter candidates or employees who ask, early in the employment relationship: specifically and exactly what is required of me in order for me to be qualified for this job?
This Policy was written to make those answers as plain and accessible as possible for all who work here or who may be considering a career in the Firm. If you have been granted access to this Policy prior to receiving or accepting an offer of employment with the Firm, you should review this material with care before deciding whether or not you should become employed here.
Qualifications To Work In Litigation
Success can be yours. Successful practice in a high-performance litigation firm can be exciting, fun and financially rewarding. For those particularly well suited to such a career, it is very rewarding, both financially and emotionally. The questions is not only whether you can rightfully expect to achieve the results you desire, but also what you must expect of yourself and what the Firm expects of you in order for you to not only maintain your employment, but to rise to higher levels of ability, performance and compensation. Our standards are neither hidden nor mysterious. Most law firms leave newer lawyers to guess what is required to excel, typically because codifying baseline standards, traits and qualifications requires effort and forethought, but the reason such firms typically offer for the failure to explicitly define those factors is that the ability of a lawyer to sense or discern such things without help is a factor the firm can use to gauge the lawyer’s inate sense of judgment. “We shouldn’t have to spell these things out,” one managing partner of a Denver law firm was quoted as stating in a legal publication. “Good candidtates for partnership just know these things.” We disagree. Nothing is gained by the use of hidden standards in an organization such as ours, because we expect to train you while you work here and we are not trying to filter out those employees who are not already superlatively trained.
Training is a good thing. Training is just another word for teaching. On this point, it is important to remember that when we discuss “training you,” we are not suggesting any kind of demeaning or degrading connotation. The word “training” has many different uses: some people think of training as what one does with a dog or a slave or a total neophyte; to those persons the term might carry insulting implications. Take heart! We do not think or speak in those terms when we use the word “training.” The word as we use it refers only to the money, time, effort and other resources that you and the Firm are both prepared to invest in order to make it possible for you reach ever higher levels of performance as a professional. To a true professional, training is a precious thing, to be valued and cherished. This is all a matter of attitude, which in fact is the most important of the many characteristics that distinguish “the best from the rest.”
Know before you go. Knowledge is power. Some people dread confronting the question of whether or not they are qualified for a job. For some, this reaction is so strong that merely raising the subject will cause them to feel defensive, indignant or insulted. Some people are hypersensitive to criticism or believe that any kind of evaluation undercuts their fundamental value as human beings. They do not wish to be judged. We occasionally encounter personnel who are quite militant in this belief, and when they are unable to free themselves from this kind of rigid, self-limiting reactive thinking they are literally incapable of being trained. Most people, however, are not held back by automatic defense mechanisms that kick in when their qualifications are discussed openly; they wish to discover what will be demanded of them in order to make informed career decisions and succeed in a carefully plotted career. This Policy presumes that either you are in this latter group or that reading this material will alert you to the possibility that you might need to re-evaluate your expectations and attitudes before investing months or years of your life in an endeavor that may not be optimal for you.
You probably would not be surprised to learn that there are special and specific qualifications for professionals in many fields. Fighter pilots, race-car drivers, surgeons, elite military personnel and many other kinds of professionals are required to have such qualifications, just as do those who work in elite litigation practices such as ours.
Few law firms go to the effort of formulating a detailed and carefully explained list of the qualifications its employees must possess in order to survive and thrive in a litigation practice. It is with no small degree of pride that we have published these standards with the expectation that you will read, understand and employ this information to your benefit and the benefit of our clients. That pride is somewhat blunted by the fact that, because the required qualifications are so high, some will view this material as bad news. Yet, consider this: your foray into the world of ultra-high-performance and high-stakes litigation is much more likely to be successful if you have a detailed map. This Policy was written to provide you with a thumbnail sketch of that map, and the rest of the Firm’s Policy, Procedures, Training Videos and Practice Guides will give you much of what remains to be learned in order to find your way. We will cover the missing pieces and additional phases of training on a person-by-person basis as we proceed through your career together.
There are many ways to make a living with a law degree. Less than ten percent of lawyers are active litigators. A much smaller percentage of attorneys work on high-stakes, complex litigation. The best and brightest of that group comprise a very small fraction of the lawyer population. In a city of a million people, there are invariably less than 100 truly superb litigators. Consider this statistic in comparison with the fact that most freshly-minted law school graduates claim to aspire to glamorous and exciting careers as litigators.
To a large degree, productivity and marketing effectiveness can be measured objectively (meaning that matters of opinion are less likely to be of value in the measurement). Most of the rest of the traits observed and measured by the Firm are subjective, and in many cases defy efforts at simplistic formulation. Some lawyers have great professional judgment; many do not. Helping you to enhance yours is part of why you are here, but we brought you aboard because you led us to believe that you are already possessed of both a strong degree of professional judgment and a healthy dose of common sense.
The single most important subjective performance indicator in this Firm is the quality of one’s professional judgment.
You are a professional! Your employment is not just a “job” but the center of your career. We hired you for your professional abilities and we expect you to constantly improve those abilities. These include your mental acumen, knowledge, skill, ability and attitude, as well as your willingness to continuously put forth your best efforts for the benefit of the Firm and its clients. Your ability to recognize the true nature of complex and challenging situations and skillfully determine how to handle demanding circumstances is an absolutely essential trait in litigation practice.
We expect all of our employees to conspicuously and continuously demonstrate excellent professional judgment, which includes, but also exceeds, mere common sense. Your level of attentiveness, your vigilence in observation and your ability to perceive the nuances of a situation and to understand what is required of you as a professional is one of the traits that will greatly influence your professional success. A key part of this trait includes a practically
Descriptors such as maturity, commitment, and dedication, though referring to valuable traits, are simply too limited for our purposes in describing what we seek from all employees under the heading of professional judgment. It is not possible to provide a simple formula which, if followed, will afford you good judgment as a legal professional in all circumstances.
The quality of your decisions is a manifestation of your judgment. Your intelligence, your ability to observe, learn, solve problems and communicate are closely tied to this trait, as are your work ethic, personal integrity and level of motivation, but these important qualities remain separate components of your value as a professional. If you Google the phrase good judgment you will find hundreds of pages of discussion of inductive and deductive reasoning, the fine points of ethics, philosophical treatises on virtually every topic imaginable. The subject is so broad it defies simple definitions; while the judgment required of a lawyer is so specialized that it cannot be adequately summarized in a succinct statement. So we can only use this simple definition:
Understanding and combating the causes of attrition.
Why do so few succeed in reaching this goal? Understanding the three causes of litigation attrition will improve your own likelihood of success. ‘they are:
- Unrealistic expectations. While mapping their “ideal” careers, most law students and fresh law grads lack a realistic awareness of what it takes to thrive in a litigation practice; they are unpleasantly surprised and discouraged to discover the truth.
- Lack of early training. Most litigation firms lack the resources to install structured and comprehensive training programs; those firms that actually possess the necessary resources often fail to recognize the importance of structured training programs, hoping that mere immersion in the practice will provide “experience” when in fact experience alone is no substitute for training. Experience without training usually teaches a young lawyer only that he or she should get out of the litigation world and find an easier way to make a living.
- Poor coping skills and tools. The technical demands of litigation practice are made even more difficult to overcome because they are magnified by persistent adverse emotional responses such as stress, fear, grief, loss of self-esteem and depression.
In order to overcome these three obstacles, we must dissect them and formulate effective solutions. These solutions begin with a frank and candid disclosure of why they are needed.
Top trial lawyers and the lives they lead are constantly romanticized in fiction novels, television and movies. After all, litigators—especially trial lawyers—are the fierce warriors of the legal system: smarter, better paid and inherently superior to the rest of society. (The same is true for the glamorized ideals of new doctors.) Lawyers face living opponents every day and are so much more interesting, at least in the eyes of Hollywood executives, than lawyers with nothing but stacks of paper and books. Can you imagine a movie about a lawyer who does nothing but stare at the Internal Revenue Code for the duration of the film? Characters like that usually die off in the first ten minutes of a movie. The drama of the courtroom is compelling, drawing hordes of young lawyers into our professional world.
While it is true that if a lawyer has the right traits, experience, skill and tools, litigating large and complicated cases, as well as smaller, simpler ones, can be very exciting, interesting, emotionally and financially rewarding. The best litigators thrive on challenge.
On the other hand, only a small percentage of aspiring litigators are destined for success in the unforgiving, adversarial world of American justice. From each of the graduating classes of new lawyers injected into our profession each year, the pressures and demands of real-life litigation will quickly cull the herd, filtering out those who lack the necessary traits and qualities. The rate of attrition among junior associates in any hard-driving litigation firm is a truly daunting statistic.
We have found that the key to success is to hire people who know what to expect and who have the native intelligence, persistence, determination and ambition to succeed and who cherish and absorb good training. This is true for litigation support personnel as well as lawyers. We budget our expenditure of resources in a manner that prioritizes quality training for our staff, so they are properly mentored and equipped with the actual tools they require to succeed in this demanding profession.
Financial realities and competition. 50 years ago, a man or woman who made it through law school and who passed the bar could generally expect a fairly smooth ride to a comfortable life. Education was expensive and rare, and licensure as a lawyer was such a precious ticket that it generally signaled success. “Just get there,” was an effective mantra for one working through college, law school and the bar. “It will be worth it after that.”
The following graphs, taken from The Legal Whiteboard (a part of the Law Professor Blogs Network website) demonstrate that the shift in the legal marketplace reflects a growth in the supply of lawyers with a resulting drop in demand, but this data is also useful because it depicts the general attrition rate among lawyers in the early years of their careers.
While the number of entry level jobs in private practice has been generally declining for the past 30 years, as shown by the graph below, there have been steadily more lawyers entering the legal market during this time. The demographic shift in the population of lawyers shown by the graphs above is the product of several combined factors, which may be summarized for purposes of this particular Policy as follows: (1) there are more neophyte (“rookie”) lawyers than ever before; (2) law firms have a steadily declining interest in untrained lawyers and thus offer fewer entry level jobs despite an overall expansion of the practice of law; and (3) untrained beginners drop out of the practice of law much faster than trained and skilled lawyers who have made it through the gauntlet of apprenticeship.
Why is all of this statistical background necessary to a discussion of the qualifications that are necessary to succeed in a smaller litigation firm? The answer to this is simple: so that each employee will understand how the Firm responds to these trends, and why we establish criteria for employment that includes subjective and objective traits that are essential to survival in this industry—and the Firm in particular.
The simple truth is that there is very little value in untrained apprentices, and the cost of transforming a rookie into a solid lawyer is unbearable unless a firm is geared to make the most of the experience of training younger attorneys. In most firms, this approach is manifested by a “churn ’em and burn ’em” philosophy under which junior associates are treated like cannon fodder. The attitude seems to be, “You’re probably going to drop out, so we’ll work you to death until you do, and if you survive that phase, maybe then we’ll take you seriously.” Does this sound harsh? More importantly, does it sound true? It is merely a mundane fact of life in any high-performance specialized activity.
Good judgment comes with experience. Your knowledge of the law and of subjects related to the work you are doing, the degree of personal responsibility you demonstrate in your work and your ability to control of the outcome of a situation (as well as knowing when to back away from a situation) all contribute to good judgment. Your personal and professional values guide you in these matters.
It is impossible to apply good professional judgment to a situation without first learning as much as possible about it. Your intimate knowledge of governing law, factual details of legal matters, awareness of the client’s objectives and those of the Firm are essential prerequisites to the exercise of professional judgment.
Never be afraid to ask for help. You will not look bad for doing so, as knowing when to seek help is a sign of good judgment.
Recipe For Success:
The Firm is dedicated to reaching the absolute pinnacle of excellence in the litigation of high-stakes, complex disputes. Candidly, this means that working here is highly demanding. The following baseline traits are therefore essential for a lawyer to succeed in our organization:
- emotional tenacity and a natural desire to win by doing all that is ethically possible to prevail in a legal dispute;
- the ability to rapidly absorb and apply large amounts of new information;
- the ability to think and communicate clearly under pressure;
- the ability to cope with the stress of the adversarial and deadline-driven nature of our legal system;
- the ability to work well with other professionals in a team setting, including the ability to lead and the ability to follow;
- the discipline to track and meet multiple, rapidly changing deadlines;
- the discipline to thoroughly learn conform to court rules and Firm policy and procedures; and
- the discipline to strictly adhere to professional and personal ethical standards.
Skills and knowledge.
A successful litigator in any field must possess a mastery of:
- the rules of civil procedure and evidence;
- litigation tactics;
- the substantive law governing the claims and defenses in the dispute;
- the mechanics of comparative fault;
- deposition and oral argument skills;
- highly polished research and writing skills;
- the ability to quickly learn and remember all of the key facts in a disputes;
Ability to learn.
In this firm, on top of these skillsets, a lawyer must possess the ability to absorb, understand and apply the technical knowledge of specialized subject matters, including the specialized nomenclature of these fields, including:
- complex instrumentation:
- finance & accounting;
- insurance; and
- regulatory structure.
The advantage of taking case after case in which knowledge of these fields is required is that attorneys can continuously sharpen their knowledge and skill in each of these fields. Lawyers who operate on the belief that it is not necessary to cultivate deep knowledge of these specialized fields—often chiming the excuse that this is what expert witnesses and consultants are for—tend to be miserable in a firm such as ours, for without the ability and willingness to delve deeply into new areas of knowledge, a lawyer is extremely unlikely to succeed in a practice such as ours. Even low-speed auto accident cases require knowledge of physics, medicine, finance and toxicology, but a surprising number of defense attorneys obtain an admirable trial record defending such actions because the bias of the jury can take the low-speed (accident) defense lawyer off the hook and create the illusion of skillsets that simply are not present. When such lawyers join the Firm, they usually encounter some degree of culture shock as they find that we are unremitting in our demand for deeper knowledge, for in larger-stakes disputes one simply cannot get by with a merely superficial understanding of the subject matter of a case.
On this point, please cross-reference our Policy on Reading and Knowledge.
It would be easy to read these words and conclude that the requirements for success discussed here apply only to lawyers. Nothing could be further from the truth. Litigation support specialists are professionals, and while not usually licensed, carry many of the same responsibilities in our firm as do our lawyers, so these qualifications apply (albeit to a lesser degree) to LSSLitigation Support Specialist staff and paralegals as well as to lawyers.
We are here to serve our clients, who by definition stand to gain or lose something important in the context of our professional services. Our first obligation is to those clients. We are entitled to charge for our services, and to take pleasure in hard work done well, but we are expected to be the heroes of the profession. To meet our ethical obligations to our clients in the demanding arena of the courtroom, we must be strong, able, rugged and honest. We must be able to carry the weight our clients place on our shoulders. In truth, we are privileged to be asked to carry that weight. It is a high calling indeed, and not everyone is qualified to meet this challenge.
A lawyer’s chances of success are greatly influenced by the quality of mentoring and training he or she receives in the early years of practice. Without correct training the necessary skill-sets simply do not develop. Conversely, no firm can magically confer all of the above attributes upon its recruits, for most of these qualities and habits are inherently built upon a foundation of the correct attitude and emotional traits, the bedrock of one’s personality and the product of a lifetime of scholarship, competition, discipline and ambition. These fundamental attributes must be firmly in place by the time a person begins their life as a professional litigator in a high-technology litigation firm. We view mentoring as one of the key benefits of employment. We have found that when our employees view mentoring as we do, they are much more likely to reap the benefits of that mentoring.
Mental and Emotional Requirements
We have observed that many people in our modern culture hold the view that there is something wrong with an open discussion of emotional stability in the workplace. Some feel that there is something intrusive about a discussion of one’s emotional makeup, or that some right to employment supersedes the rights of our clients to legal counsel who are truly equipped to do battle on their behalf in the cruel war-zone known as the American legal system. The adversarial system of justice in use in this country demands not only ingenuity, tenacity and perseverance, it also demands the ability to think clearly and function smoothly under circumstances that would reduce most good and kind souls to jelly. During the past 25 years, we have employed some of the most ambitious and intelligent emotional wrecks you could imagine. We have learned, through bitter experience, that no matter how much intellectual potential a person has, if they are emotionally unstable, they are usually not useful members of a litigation team. A typical litigator encounters, in the course of one ordinary day, enough knocks and bruises to reduce most people to tears. To succeed, a litigator has to have a “thick hide,” meaning a high tolerance for emotional stress, or better yet, the skills to diffuse and avoid that stress.
Our culture is evolving to become more sensitive and more humane. We have developed a moral fabric based upon compassion and sympathy. When we compare an enlightened society to a barbaric one, we often open the door to debates about entitlement, the inherent merits of philanthropy and charity, and most important of all, the equal rights we are guaranteed under the law. Doesn’t the Constitution guarantee us the right of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?” No, it does not—those words are found in the Declaration of Independence. Of course, working in a law firm, you already knew that, but we bring the idea up here to underscore the automatic, stimulus-response thinking that has given rise to the New Church of Political Correctness, a term used to refer to the gradual constriction on communication that flows from knee-jerk thinking in the place of well considered policy.
Whether you are a Democrat, a Republican or neither of these; whether you believe in the comforting benefits of a welfare state or the harsh purity of a free market system, you must understand the Firm’s stance on this issue: We do not care about your politics and we do not discriminate on the basis of gender, age, race, sexual orientation, or religion except to the extent that your practices or beliefs result in an unwillingness or inability to function as needed for success in high-stakes litigation of complex disputes. Under the law, in view of the fiduciary obligations we owe our clients and the stressful nature of litigation, we are required as a business to exercise our own best judgment on these subjects. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but no one is entitled to a job for which they are not suited by temperament and training. Because the law forces us to exercise our best judgment in relation to gauging the suitability for employment of all members of our team, we rise to that obligation and make judgments about employees.
We are an equal opportunity employer, in the sense that the protections given to the classifications mentioned above are important to the Firm, for we value diversity in each of these areas because diversity empowers us with greater knowledge and insight to hire persons from different backgrounds and walks of life.
We do discriminate on the basis of ability, skill, intelligence, judgment, work ethic, productivity, attitude and the dozens of other attributes that influence a person’s overall fit within the Firm. We do not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, religion, nationality, age or sexual orientation.
With this point established, let us recognize that there are many people who bridle at the thought of a business formally establishing a policy related to mental and emotional employment qualifications. We have observed this phenomenon a number of times, often with dismay, when conversations arise in the aftermath of the exhibition of some mental or emotional cause of substandard work or behavior. We have heard people ask, “If I can get the job done, what difference does it make whether or not I measure up to some arbitrary mental or emotional standards?”
Just as not all aspiring athletes are destined for the Olympics, litigation practice is not for everyone. The practice of law is populated by many lawyers who lack the discipline, intelligence and knowledge to be litigators. Some litigators possess these traits, but are still destined for failure because they do not have the appropriate emotional makeup.
HIPAA, the ADA and the ADEA
Mental health is a growing national priority, as it should be. Laws relating to the protection of the privacy of a person’s medical care have been stiffened, as they should be. The Policy of the Firm is to adhere strictly to these and all laws relating to employment and the practice of law. While the full scope of these laws is well beyond recitation in this Policy, a few highlights are important to know.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”)(was passed by Congress in 1996) does the following:
- Provides the ability to transfer and continue health insurance coverage for millions of American workers and their families when they change or lose their jobs;
- Reduces health care fraud and abuse;
- Mandates industry-wide standards for health care information on electronic billing and other processes; and
- Requires the protection and confidential handling of protected health information.
The theme that develops when a firm such as ours constantly operates in the demanding field of upper-echelon litigation is that lawyers must be intelligent, self-motivated, capable of rapidly learning new material in large quantities and retaining significant amounts of information in their brains while a case is underway. Discipline, intelligence and an excellent memory are therefore minimum baseline requirements for success in our firm. Creativity is also a must, but in all candor, we have learned that attorneys who master the building blocks of legal problem solving and who bring a disciplined and organized approach to their daily and weekly routines drastically outperform the absent-minded creative genius who thrives only when able to concentrate on one complex challenge at a time.
The finest litigators are those who possess these basic skills and disciplines and who, while working in an organized and disciplined way, are able to soak up vast amounts of information and supply creative genius to the final product. The worst litigators we have encountered are those who need to have their work spoon-fed to them, and who lack sufficient mastery of the basic operations of litigation that they must delegate most of their work. A litigation professional (including lawyers and LSS staff alike) who must delegate that which has been delegated to them because of their lack of basic ability or knowledge is nothing but a relay point in a system that has one too many moving parts.
Attitude: Delegation and Responsibility
There is definitely a place for the delegation of individual tasks by an attorney who is handling a large matter, and the ability to delegate tasks is one way for the more senior members of our organization (with prior approval from the firm) to stabilize their caseload at the optimum level, but when a task has been delegated to you there is usually a reason, so passing that task on to someone else makes your role in the process superficial and wasteful. This is an area where professional judgment plays a key role.
Willingness to accept responsibility, to faithfully adhere to the firm’s organizational systems and procedures, and to get work done quickly and well requires a certain mind-set, or attitude, towards the practice of law. The key word in this discussion is responsibility. By this we mean that a lawyer who takes responsibility is essentially refusing to allow random chance, the passage of time, or the actions of others influence the outcome.
An attorney (or LSS) with a high level of personal and professional responsibility says to himself or herself, “I’m in charge of this project, and I’m going to make sure it is successful no matter who or what gets in the way. This is my firm, my job and my project, and if it has my name on it in any way, the product must be first-rate. Anyone can find excuses, but I can find solutions—even when the problems are not anticipated or seem too difficult to solve.”
Is this how you think? If it is, you are working in the right place!
Our office has become a paperless environment. The reasons for this are detailed in many of our Procedures. One advantage of a paperless office is that the need to lug heavy boxes of records to depositions and trial has all but vanished. A two-pound tablet or laptop can provide access to every record in the office using our private cloud server system. For this reason, there is no particular reason to require any particular degree of athleticism or physical strength and stamina of our employees. For lawyers and some LSS staff, it is necessary to be able to drive a car from one place to the next, and occasionally to assist in the loading and transport of modestly heavy equipment such as projectors, jury notebooks (for not all courts are paperless) and other materials.
In some circumstances, a physically limited individual may be able to thrive in this environment, particularly with reasonable assistance from the Firm, provided he or she can arrange for their own transportation to suit the mobility needs of active litigation practice, which include getting to and from meetings, depositions, hearings, trials and other locations. As with the case of psychiatric disabilities defined in the ADA, physical disabilities are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, taking into account all factors and considerations that influence how such a person will influence the Firm’s capability of meeting the fiduciary obligations owed by us to our clients.
Severe impairments in vision and hearing that are not correctable with vision gear and hearing aids are generally disqualifying in this practice, as well as this Firm. Physical conditions leading to frequent or occasional loss of consciousness, loss of memory or which impair an individual’s ability to concentrate are also generally disqualifying. Individuals on life-sustaining medication are responsible for their own medication and must disclose that condition to the Firm.
The Firm expects you to disclose your use of any prescription medication that has the potential to adversely affect your mental performance.
The Firm prohibits the use of alcohol or any recreational drug during working hours. The Firm reserves the right to submit employees to drug tests (including alcohol) without prior notice, in the event the Firm in its sole discretion concludes that a drug issue may be adversely affecting an employee’s performance or fitness for work in a litigation firm. Intoxication during working hours is likely to (and has on several past occasions) resulted in summary termination of employment.
The Firm is headquartered in Colorado, where recreational use of cannabis is legal for adults. We have no policy regarding off-hours use of marijuana or alcohol, so long as the circumstances of such use do not reflect adversely on the Firm or its attorneys and staff, and as long as such use does not result in during-the-day impairment (such as sleep loss, hangovers, or residual intoxication), whether through side effects or otherwise. Recreational use of illegal or controlled substances is prohibited in accordance with the Rules of Professional Responsibility.
Legal And Ethical Qualifications
Moral character. Lawyers and non-lawyers alike must be of strong moral character, possessed of a high degree of honesty and integrity, and have the ability to tell right from wrong. That much goes without saying. More specifically, lawyers in the Firm are expected to possess and maintain an intimate knowledge of the rules governing the practice of law and the key published opinions interpreting those rules. All lawyers must at all times meet the ethical standards of every state in which they practice.
No criminal record. All employees must have a “clean” criminal record, meaning that they have no convictions on their record. An undisclosed criminal record is likely to result in summary termination if it is discovered, regardless of the nature of the offense or whether a conviction was for a misdemeanor or felony. An arrest record may be disqualifying based upon the circumstances of the arrest even if no conviction resulted from the same. Any crime involving moral turpitude, whether or not resulting in a conviction, is grounds for termination; guilt is determined by the Firm on the basis of a preponderance of evidence or reasonable suspicion, depending upon the circumstances of the event. No formal hearing is usually conducted, but candid communication is expected from all employees in matters relating to their qualification for employment in the Firm. Lack of candor itself—subject to medical, religious and other established rights of privacy, as well as the exceptions to those rights—is generally seen as automatically disqualifying.
History as a litigant. A history of involvement in civil litigation may or may not disqualify an employee. A history of bankruptcy is likely to result in disqualification from employment, for it typically signals a lack of financial responsibility and a baseline level of financial acumen, at least in the eyes of our clients, many of whom have formal qualification requirements of their own that pertain in this area.
Eligibility for insurance. Any person not eligible for coverage under our liability policies (including professional liability and commercial and auto liability) may not be employed by the Firm.
Background investigations. The Firm reserves the right to investigate the background of every employee to help ensure that the employees we hire are suitable for employment in a law firm, where professional standards and client confidences are of paramount importance. We handle financial accounts for some clients, so we may require certain employees to become bonded or public notaries. Criminal histories which are disclosed may or may not be the basis for termination, depending upon the circumstances.
What It Takes To Become A Shareholder
You may be wondering, “What do I have to do to make partner?” This is a fair question to ask. Particularly if you are a younger lawyer and are still becoming familiar with the culture of a law office such as ours, you should want to make the most of your time as an initiate and progress rapidly to a higher station. This is a commendable objective. While there is no simple formula that will guarantee your invitation to become a shareholder, there are specific key attributes and factors that are important; and the criteria we use in making such determinations are relatively straightforward. Particularly if you understand and adhere to all that is stated here and elsewhere in the Firm’s Policy, you are likely to do well, provided you are persistent and demonstrate your long-term value.
- Skill as an attorney
- A comprehensive understanding of substantive law related to the areas of practice that are central to this organization
- A thorough mastery of legal writing
- Strong verbal skills, including the ability to communicate effectively with clients and colleagues
- For trial practitioners, demonstrated courtroom ability (though it is not required to be skilled in court to become a shareholder if a candidate has other strengths
- Excellent professional judgment, as discussed above
- Proven reliability in relation to deadlines and case management
- Demonstrated, unwavering commitment to professional growth and development
- Demonstrated effective business development skills
- Proven ability to attract and retain clients
- Proven ability to support client development programs and activities
- Effective tracking and follow-up of business development opportunities
- Proven track record of profitable practice
- Established history of steady contribution to the financial success of the Firm
- Conscientious use of Firm resources and conservation of Firm assets
- Adherence to firm methodology, policy and procedure
- Diligently following the standardized procedures we have developed
- Diligently assisting others in keeping their work product in compliance with our standards
- Contributing to firm administrative success
- Detecting and correcting departures from standard firm methodology
- Habitual compliance with Firm policy
- Executing directives of the Firm with speed and effectiveness
- Faithful pursuit of training goals and objectives advanced by the Firm
- Vigilant monitoring of personal statistics and profitability
- Desirable personality traits and character
- Impeccable professional ethics, including a detailed knowledge of all ethical rules related to the practice of law, and a high level of personal integrity
- Reliability and trustworthiness—keeping commitments once made
- Emotional stability, particularly when under pressure—meaning not that one never cries or show frustration, but rather that these occur infrequently
- A good sense of humor—meaning that one can laugh and make others laugh without crossing the line of unacceptable humor
- Proven commitment to the success of everyone else in the firm as well as the firm itself, rather than just yourself (noting that while a competitive spirit is a good thing, an excessively selfish attitude harms the firm more than it helps the individual)
- Maturity—meaning not that we expect you to be humorless, but rather that we expect you to behave as an adult without excessively idiosyncratic, hypersensitive or childish tendencies
- Leadership—meaning not that you would rather give orders than take them, but rather that you take responsibility for what needs to be done, in the office and elsewhere
- Loyalty—meaning that you show unwavering concern for the well-being of your colleagues and the firm, and you’re there for us when we need you
This list is not all-inclusive, for no two persons are alike, and the equation of value is not readily reduced to a mathematical formula. The key to becoming a shareholder is to be the kind of lawyer you would want to have as a partner if you were operating a litigation firm in a fiercely competitive marketplace.
A Final Note
Your baseline qualifications for employment and what is required for you to excel here are the same; whether you possess these traits, characteristics and attributes in a measure to simply hold your job or to reach the top of this profession is merely a matter of degree. We encourage you to think not in terms of what minimum requirements apply, but to focus instead on what it will take for you to reach the very top, for that is what we want for you.
We want you to succeed!