October 2012 Bar Bulletin
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October 2012 Bar Bulletin

Associate Reviews and Legal Career Management

By Karen Summerville


Q. I am going into my fourth year as an associate at a mid-size firm. As fall approaches, I am dreading the annual associate review process. My first two reviews were very positive, but last year my review was not glowing. No one suggested that I look for another position, but I am concerned about my future. What should I do?

A. First, let's look carefully at the information you received at your last review. Was the criticism you received constructive? In other words, did they give you suggestions for how you could make improvements in certain areas?

As you mature into the role of mid-level to senior associate, partners may have a greater interest in preparing you for eventual partnership. Was the review generally encouraging but with suggestions for improvement? If so, have you taken the necessary steps? Have you spoken to partners with whom you work closely for additional suggestions?

Given your concerns for the future, you should consider the "seven warning signs." If five or more of the following apply, you probably would do well to consider your options. The warning signs include:

  • No repeat assignments from the partners with whom you work most closely (even though they are busy);
  • Significant, long-term projects are assigned to other associates in your practice group;
  • Low billable hours;
  • No reassignment to firm committees;
  • No constructive criticism of your work product;

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