Want to build relationships with the partners? Being intentional about in-person time at the office is a must for young lawyers in a hybrid work environment.
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While I love the flexibility of working from home, I don’t envy being a young lawyer in today’s hybrid work environment. It is not because training, relationship-building, mentoring, coaching and sponsorship can’t occur in a hybrid environment. They must, for our profession’s sake. My concern is that now these endeavors will take much more intentionality and effort than before.
And in a business model where billable time is most valued and prioritized, young lawyers may find themselves having fewer opportunities to grow — if they are not mindful of what boosts their own development and career trajectory.
Success Tip: Be Intentional About In-Person Time at the Office
One piece of advice I have for young lawyers is to show up at the office regularly when partners are also present.
Before you balk at this tip, know that I understand why you may want to push back. I am so much more efficient working from home too. I love all the time I save by not having to get ready and not having to commute. And I recognize that you may be “wasting” some billable time by going into the office (which is why I don’t think you have to go all the time). I also don’t believe in the merit of proving your commitment or loyalty to the firm through unnecessary “face time” that is often considered a toxic part of law firm culture.
Yet Face Time Helps You Build Trust
At the same time, it is helpful to consider why in-person interactions can benefit your career. The reason in-person interaction is so important is because our profession is built on trust. And in my lived experience, trust is built more quickly and deeply through positive in-person interactions.
Practically speaking, unless your firm has a formal way of assigning work, partners likely give their assignments to associates who they know and trust before another associate who they may not know yet, or who they have never worked with before. Therefore, if you want to be the associate who is known and trusted, it may be helpful for partners to see you and get to know you through positive in-person interactions.
As they get to know your work and reputation and you’ve gained credibility and their trust, you can likely show up less in person.
Does this mean that trust cannot be built solely through email, phone calls, chat messages and video calls? No. But it may take longer, requiring more interactions over a longer period of time.
What “Regularly” Means Depends on Your Office Culture
Your firm’s office culture, and any hybrid expectations, are likely set by the partners. Don’t have explicit office rules on what’s appropriate? Then you might lean into asking a few people to get a decent cross-section of “data,” hopefully from at least one mentor or someone you trust on what’s appropriate. What you don’t want to happen is that you are the only associate who didn’t get the memo and you show up the least or not at all.
If there really isn’t any structure to when you must be in the office, and it’s loosey-goosey like twice a week or a few times a month, you can try to align with the partners you work with — or the ones that you want to work with.
Of course, the relevance of this advice may change as the leadership and makeup of your firm change from baby boomers and Generation X to millennials and Generation Z. But in the meantime, consider boosting your career by showing up from time to time.
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