Hentoff visited with twelve young partners who were identified by their colleagues as former superstar associates and realized several commonalities among the group, including trustworthiness, the ability to seize opportunity, and a drive for success.
Hentoff distilled these traits into his ten secrets to success. The first on his list, although seemingly obvious, is that superstar associates work hard. Hentoff explains that hard work allows associates to demonstrate talent and ability that can inspire partners to have confidence in them. It is that confidence that earns associates choice assignments and a seat at key client meetings.
Another important secret to becoming a superstar requires that associates think like partners. In doing so, associates should take ownership of cases and demonstrate a high degree of concern for the outcome. Moreover, associates should make themselves indispensable by offering case strategy and other ideas. According to one former superstar, “I expect to receive unsolicited ideas from associates about the best way to handle a case or part of a case. I get those ideas from superstars, not others. And those are the people I want to work with.”
One more secret that Hentoff discusses is the concept of superstar associates finding mentors. No one can figure out everything on their own. Developing strong relationships with older members of the firm will allow associates to discover a wealth of knowledge and opinions that is critical to their career. Hentoff shares that most partners want to be asked for advice and will make time to give it even when they’re busy.
Other secrets to superstardom include:
  • - Build a great reputation. Good reputations are set early. Recognize that your reputation will follow you your whole career.
  • - View everyone as a client; anticipate partners’ expectations and deliver on them.
  • - Treat professional development like a case on a docket. Plan ahead, set goals, and recognize how your current activities fit your future plans.
  • - Have fun with litigation. “People who love what they do are happy to immerse themselves in it,” says Hentoff.
  • - Think like a student, but don’t act like one. Attempt to make litigation an extension of your education.
  • - Be enthusiastic. No one likes working with someone who consistently sighs. Communicate that you’re a pleasure to be around.
  • - Have good judgment. Practice listening more.
Finally, Hentoff stresses that not everyone wants to be a superstar associate. Obtaining superstardom can be too time consuming and limits an individual’s personal life outside of work.
To listen to the complete podcast, visit www.abanet.org/litigation.
For information on the free Secrets of Superstar Associates Teleconference happening Mar. 24, 2009, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, please visit www.abanet.org/yld.
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