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By Murray Gottheil | November 29, 2023
This is the last in a series about the questions articling students and new associates should ask when when deciding if they want to stay at their firm long-term.
This time, I will speak about supervising lawyers (SL).
I was an SL for more than a few lawyers and law clerks. There were a number of success stories. Several of my protégés thrived at my firm and remained there for decades. One of them liked me so much that she married me. A few others moved on but have remained friends.
There were also some who were not so fond of me, including one who let it be known that he had to see a psychologist to cope with my alleged abuse. (There is definitely another side to that story.)
As an articling student or new associate, the likelihood that you will thrive at your firm depends largely on whether or not you respect and enjoy working with your SL. To assist in figuring this out, I offer the following questions to obsess about:
- Is your SL friendly and approachable, or are they scary as all get out?;
- Does your SL make you feel like part of a team, or the help that has been hired to get your SL’s work done?;
- Is your SL committed to “sink or swim” as the best training method?;
- Do other associates say things like, “You are so lucky to be working with Murray,” or do they just say things such as, “Oh, you are working for Bob. Good luck”;
- Does your SL make time to go through your drafts and tell you specifically where you went wrong and suggest how you could have done better?;
- Does your SL send you to motions court without preparing you for the experience?;
- Has your SL said things like, “I don’t believe in coddling people,” or “I am not going to hold your hand” or “You went to law school, figure it out.” (These are all cop-outs;
- Does your SL involve you in client meetings? (They should);
- Does your SL give you entire files to work on instead of just tiny pieces to research or draft? Do associates who worked for your SL still work at the firm? If so, what do they say about your SL? If not, why not? Do you look forward to seeing your SL every day or do you just hope to get through the day without talking to them?;
- If you write an article for the SL to use in business promotion, do they give you credit? (Having been a spectacularly fantastic SL, I used to identify the associate as a co-author and put their name first. The credit meant something to them. I did not need it);
- Does the SL ever praise your work in writing and copy the practice group leader or managing partner?; and
- Do lawyers or staff ever stop by to tell you that the SL mentioned how well you are doing?
If your SL does not impress you much, working at that firm for that person may be the worst professional decision that you ever make. No really, just run. If you trip, get up and keep going. Don’t look back. I mean it.
Murray is a happily retired lawyer who lives in the country, drives a pick-up truck, writes, teaches and mentors. You can reach him at [email protected] or see what he is up to at lawanddisorderinc.com.