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May 22, 2014

Ask a Mentor: How Can a Young Associate Become Involved in a Firm's Business-Development Initiatives?

Writing often leads to expertise and speaking opportunities. The key is to identify a topic that would be of interest and is timely. These topics can arise in current cases. If an associate learns of a particularly thorny or unusual issue that his or her firm is dealing with, volunteering to research the issue may present an opportunity to author an article and become a source of knowledge on the topic.

Theodore Baum is a partner at Goldberg Segalla LLP's office in Rochester, New York, and is also a member and former vice chair of the ABA Fidelity & Surety Law Committee.

It is vital for a young associate to have a real mentor in the law firm. Regardless of whether the associate works at a firm with 10 lawyers or 1,000, the mentoring relationship is one of the largest keys to getting involved in the firm's business-development initiative.  This mentor must do more for the associate than teach the nuances of the law and how to litigate a case, but must also teach how to build and maintain a relationship with a client and how to balance life with work. The mentor should help with all aspects of the young associate's life. The other side of this coin is the willingness and eagerness of the young associate to become involved. In order for a partner to invest the time in an associate that is required for a real mentoring relationship, the partner needs to know that the associate wants it and will put blood, sweat, and tears into the process. This relationship cannot be forced and must be 100 percent authentic from both sides. Lastly, the associate needs to ask—to make his or her desires known to the partner so that tangible goals can be set in the long process of turning a young energetic associate into a key cog of the business-development process.

Sean McKinley is a partner at Goldberg Segalla LLP's office in White Plains, New York.

Meeting a client on the client's home turf can result in the feeling that you are truly interested in the client business and the case. Instead of an "email relationship," you can personalize the affiliation and create a rapport that can result in new business. Most clients have said that they often don't meet their counsel until 20 minutes before a deposition. Young associates appear to be less intimidated by a one-on-one meeting than by walking into a room full of people and trying to be recognized. When at the meeting, try offering them unsolicited help or advice.

Ellen Greiper is a partner at Goldberg Segalla LLP's office in White Plains, New York.

An associate can become involved in a firm's business-development efforts by joining and participating in client visits with partners and helping with marketing efforts (article/blog writing, speaking engagements, etc.). Partners and more senior attorneys need to be willing to mentor associates and include them in these efforts.  Associates must be vocal about their desire to participate.

Caroline J. Berdzik is a partner at Goldberg Segalla LLP's office in Princeton, New Jersey.

Keywords: litigation, minority trial lawyer, mentoring, business development, law firms, marketing efforts, writing opportunities, young associates

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