Tips for the associate seeking to make partner (AC06)

Issue May 2006 By Ann Karpenski, Esq.

Jeffrey Catalano, a partner at Todd and Weld since 2005, spoke candidly about what it takes for an associate to make partner as part of "Managing Your Practice and Career" for the New Lawyers track. Catalano, who started as an associate at Todd and Weld in 1999 and currently handles medical malpractice and personal injury cases at the firm, said he wished he had known a few of these things when he started his career.

First and foremost, Catalano said, an associate needs to do excellent work efficiently because that is what the partners are looking for. Similarly, an associate needs to know what his or her value to the firm is.

"Making partner isn't an entitlement. You're an investment that the partners take a risk on. You're paid a salary and carry overhead that will exceed your risk for about five years," he said. And, as a result, an associate needs to show the partners that he or she is worth the risk.

Catalano offered several ways for associates to do just that, suggesting that an associate start by showing, albeit subtly, an interest in making partner. Ask the partners how the firm is run and how the firm is getting business. Similarly, he said that associates shouldn't just complain about things that aren't working in the firm, but offer concrete solutions to fix them. Catalano said that by doing so, an associate will show an interest and involvement in the firm.

Along those lines, Catalano said an associate should attend firm functions, particularly those held outside of the office so that the partners can get a sense of who he or she really is. Also, assist Ð or at least offer to assist Ð the junior associates because it will alleviate pressure on the partners and "the partners will notice." Joking that, as an associate, "you have a lot of time on your hands," Catalano suggested that, if possible, associates should get outside the firm and join organizations, write for publications and network. "Show that you are committed to developing your firm's business," he said.