The Path to Success: Navigating Law Firm Politics by Lisa Goldstein
Even with the best of maps and instruments, we can never fully chart our journeys. - Gail Pool
I just returned from a trip to Italy. I had booked the rooms and airfare on the Internet for the six night trip to Capri, Naples and Rome. With one exception, our trip went smoothly considering neither myself nor my husband speaks Italian, and neither one of us are very good at map reading.
When we exited the Termini train station in Rome on the last leg of our trip, we arrived at the taxi line and gave the address of our hotel to the first cab driver. He walked away and approached the other cab drivers. There seemed to be a lot of discussion around it, none of which we understood. Finally, another driver grabbed our bags and told us he knew where the hotel was. He spoke fairly good English, and we found out that he and my husband had mutual acquaintances in Norristown, PA. He charged us $15 euro (approximately $20), and we arrived safely at our hotel.
Later that day after we became somewhat acclimated to our surroundings, we realized that we could actually see our hotel from the bus station. The driver had driven us in circles.
Finding Your Way
As lawyers, we tend to think that we can navigate any challenge by ourselves. After all, we serve as guides to the legal system for those who do not understand it. However, in order to succeed as a rainmaker, the obstacles you need to overcome are not so obvious. Not only must you be well-regarded by clients, you must be well-regarded by others in your law firm. In order to accomplish the latter, you need to navigate law firm politics.
Like finding your way in a foreign country where you do not speak the language, law firm politics can be very confusing. It seems as though it should be as simple as getting from point A to point B. You perform well. You are rewarded for your performance and well regarded by others lawyers in the firm. Conversely, you will find that your success is intertwined with the perception that others have of you. This may or may not be related to the "quality" of your legal work.
There has been a lot of discussion around the mentoring process and how it will help you to achieve success within your law firm. It does help to find someone that will take a personal interest in your success and help you to plot your course. Be wary, though, as sometimes mentors appear to be championing your success and they really are very much like our Italian cab driver. They may be nice and appear to be moving your agenda forward, however sometimes their own agenda is actually inconsistent with yours. To successfully navigate law firm politics, make sure you find many champions within your law firm and outside your law firm-or you may get stuck "spinning around in circles."