Eight Actions Law Firm Associates Can Take to Succeed

I love hearing and sharing insights from successful professionals.  Thanks to Laura McClellan, Partner atThompson & Knight for today's post.  

Eight Specific Actions You Can Take to Evidence an Ownership Mentality

by Guest Blogger Laura McClellan

If you are an associate seeking advancement through the ranks to partnership – or, for that matter, a partner seeking to excel in that role – what are some specific actions you can take that demonstrate an ownership mentality?

  1. Volunteer for, and follow through on, non-billable tasks that benefit the section and the firm (e.g., provide meaningful service on committees; help with retreat planning and execution)
  2. Initiate client relations/business development activities. Cultivate sincere relationships with the clients you have contact with. Invite them to lunch. Think of them when your firm sponsors an educational seminar that might be of interest to them; invite them personally, and then attend and sit with them. Introduce them to colleagues in other practice areas.
  3. Do your tasks efficiently and well, spending the appropriate amount of time on the work and staying aware of clients’ concerns about the cost of legal services.
  4. Think ahead – what else needs to be done? Don’t just sit in your office waiting for the next assignment. We can make ourselves important to our clients by making their jobs easier; you show your supervisors that you can do this for clients (and thus earn more responsibility) by making your supervisor’s job easier.
  5. Be a problem solver, not only a problem identifier. If you run into a question you’re not sure about, put some thought into possible solutions before going to the senior attorney – not “Here’s this problem; what do we do?” but “Here’s the problem; I think we could solve it by doing x or y or z.”
  6. Be available and responsive. Clients want to know they can reach you when they need you, and that you’ll answer them promptly when they have questions. This is important at all times, but especially during a closing or other crisis
  7. Communicate. Keep the client (and/or your supervisor) in the loop. Copy (or bcc) them on email and other correspondence. Don’t wait to be asked about status; provide updates regularly. This matters to clients, so it matters to owners – just because you know everything’s under control doesn’t mean they know, so check in with them before they call or email asking what’s going on with their project.
  8. Honor your word. Never fail to meet a deadline or to do what you say you’ll do. In the early stages of your career, you’ll be given small pieces of a project to work on, often in the background. Senior lawyers will gladly relinquish more and more responsibility for matters if and when you show that you are both competent and 100% reliable. You show this by doing the things described above.

What have I missed? Can you suggest other “best practices” for cultivating and demonstrating an ownership mentality in your industry or profession?

Laura McClellan is a partner in the Dallas office of Thompson & Knight LLP, where she focuses her practice on real estate and real estate finance.  She is a fellow in the American College of Mortgage Attorneys and has been named in The Best Lawyers in America by Woodward/White Inc. (Real Estate Law, 2012).  Laura blogs from time to time at Real Estate Law Blog and can be reached at