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Attorneys Need Four Key Traits to Survive in Major Law Firms
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Summary: Attorneys wishing to survive within a large law firm will need to be particularly skilled in four main abilities.

Read How Important Are Intelligence, Work Ethic, Perseverance, and Social Intelligence to Succeeding in Large Law Firms to learn more.


Possessing talent in the areas of work ethic, social intelligence, perseverance, and intelligence will help an attorney achieve success in a large law firm. Without one of these special talents, an attorney will not be able to succeed at a major law firm. It may seem ridiculous to say that an attorney will not succeed at a large law firm if they do not have one of these traits but as Harrison Barnes states, “It is crazy for attorneys to push themselves into situations where their natures and innate skills will not be rewarded. …If you do not have most or all of these qualities, you will experience resistance if you insist on trying to work in major law firms.”


Attorneys are charged with figuring things out. Clients provide them with a problem that an attorney must cleverly work out so being extremely intelligent is important. They have to be smarter than the other attorney working the case so they can get the best outcome for their client. Those wishing to attend law school take a test to verify they are smart enough and then they take a test after law school to once again verify they are competent enough to be a good lawyer. The best law firms want those that go to the best colleges, go to the best law schools, and do well on all their tests because that means they are intelligent.

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Work Ethic

Law firms depend on attorneys that work hard. They make their money off of how many hours their attorneys are able to bill. They also need the work their attorneys are doing to be quality work. There are some practice areas that require more work than others such a projects that drag on for months or are last-minute tasks. Quite often, intelligence will get an attorney through the front doors of a law firm but work ethic is what will allow them to stay.


The legal industry took a big hit in 2008 with entire classes of corporate associates losing their jobs. There are times when certain practice areas will struggle due to a lack of work. To make it through these hard times, attorneys need to keep pushing through and not give up because things will eventually turn back around. There are other times when an attorney will have to persevere. They may lose their job, make a mistake, or have other bad things happen along the way but those that give up when things get a little tough will never be successful as an attorney.

Social Intelligence

This skill refers to one’s ability to react to others and their environment. If an attorney does not understand how to work with others and be aware of how their environment works, they will never be able to keep their job at a major law firm. There are a lot of politics involved in the workings of a law firm as well as with clients. Conflicts will arise with other attorneys, clients, and supervisors so having an ability to relate to them and work through the conflict will prove valuable. As Barnes states, “They know when to be seen and not seen.”

Do you think an attorney can survive in a large firm without any of these skills? Tell us in the comments below.

To learn more about how to a successful attorney at a large law firm, read these articles:




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