What, precisely, is that is going to make you special (or even more special) in the marketplace over the next few years? Would you like to develop a specialized expertise in a particular technical area, in certain types of transaction, in the problems of certain types of clients? You probably can develop cutting-edge expertise in any one of these, but not all of them simultaneously. The choice is yours. All the firm asks of you is that you focus and stretch; that you pick a career-building goal and work towards it.
- More words of wisdom from David Maister's Managing the Professional Service Firm.
Maister goes on to discuss how infrequently associates and partners in professional services firms develop a personal strategic plan - at a detriment to the firm. Toiling away as an associate like a cog in the machine does no one - the cog or the machine - any good.
Developing success as an associate is not merely meekly accepting whatever task is tossed along towards you, but instead seeking out interesting work and assignments. Picking an area of practice and pursuing it with vigor. Learning about the clients and their business and industry far outside of the required bare minimum to complete your work. It is choosing a path of development and boldly striding down it.
This is not your managing partner's responsibility. It is yours.
No one else is going to be able to decide for you what you are passionate about. You have to develop yourself personally because that will in turn develop the firm as a whole. Again Maister,
"Developing a strategy is fundamentally a creative activity, not an analytical one. It's about finding new ways of doing things that provide an advantage over the competition."
By developing your own skills, you will in turn make the firm's services more valuable to clients.
Have you found a new way to do something lately or are you just following the herd?
Keith Lee is an associate with an insurance defense litigation firm in Birmingham, AL, and a recent graduate of Birmingham School of Law. Keith is the author of the blog, An Associate's Mind.
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