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

Want to Succeed in Law? Adopt an Ownership Mentality

Today's post comes from guest blogger, Laura McClellan, Partner, Thompson & Knight LLP

One of the keys to long-term success in a law firm (or, for that matter, any other business) is having an “ownership mentality.” Below are some thoughts on what it means to evidence an ownership mentality and specific behaviors that would evidence such a mentality.

First, having an ownership mentality means thinking constantly about how to ensure the business’s success.

  • An owner focuses on both the long-term, big-picture components of success, and the day-to-day issues of running a business. That is, an owner thinks about both the long-term task of building a practice and the day-to-day matters like how the electric bill will get paid
  • An owner’s thoughts about the business don’t stop at the end of the work day
  • The difference between an employee mindset and an owner’s mindset: An employee worries about losing his or her job; an owner worries about the business failing

Second, owners take personal responsibility for the business’s success. An owner knows that the business’s success will require his or her personal investment of time and money. Owners know that the buck stops with them. They don’t look to someone else to make things work.

  • Think as if you have no partners and the business’s success is entirely dependent on what you do. If you were practicing on your own, with no one to “get” work for you, what would you do on a day-to-day basis to make sure your business succeeds?
  • Owners are proactive. They don’t (because they can’t) wait for someone else to initiate business-building activity, but take the lead

Third, Owners constantly seek to understand their clients or customers and to look at the business from the client’s perspective. Owners understand that clients are the company’s reason for existence and therefore are indispensible to the firm’s success, and the company’s success or failure directly impacts the individual’s success or failure. Because they pay attention, owners know what clients want: top quality work product at a reasonable price. Owners are personally concerned with understanding and meeting each client’s needs. They pay attention to providing high quality work – giving every piece of work product their best thought, their best drafting, their most careful proofreading. In the law firm context, owners know that clients are concerned about the high cost of legal services; in response, an owner will work hard to spend an appropriate amount of time on the file by working efficiently.

As opposed to an employee mindset, an ownership mentality follows this overarching guide: Treat this business as if it is yours to inherit. Because it is.

Laura McClellan is a partner in the Dallas office of Thompson & Knight LLP, where she focuses her practice on real estate and realestate 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