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Showing Up: The Difference Between Those Who Get Hired and Advance in Law Firms and Those Who Do Not
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Summary: Showing up, both physically and mentally, is the key to success for getting hired and advancing in Law Firms.

Long hours, unpleasant encounters and the constant pressure of getting ahead-the practice of law can be grueling. Also, let’s not forget about how excruciatingly tough law school can be. Moreover, at every stage of the game, lawyers find their peers transitioning from allies to enemies. It’s survival of the fittest. To remain ahead, attorneys committed to success need to show up more than their peers.


Harison Barnes explains the difference between Those Who Get Hired and Advance in Law Firms and Those Who Do NotIt’s about Showing up.

The law firm game is about showing up. Law firms have developed all sorts of systems to make sure their attorneys are showing up. Here is how the law firm organism tests its attorneys at every level of the game to make sure they are showing up. The most successful attorneys in most law firms always show up. It is never enough just to be doing the work you are given. I have spent roughly the past 20 years speaking with attorneys looking for jobs inside of law firms on a daily basis. From a law firm’s review of your resume to their “evaluation” of you, once you start working there, people are constantly watching to see if you are “showing up.”” explains Barnes.

Barnes explains how attornies who ‘show up’  and consistently do more than their peers make it to the top of the best law firms. Working in the largest and best firms—and staying there—is all about showing up. This is how the “game” works and understanding this is the key to success at all levels of the profession.

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At some point in their careers, most attorneys stop showing up. Some attorneys lose their enthusiasm in law school. Others lose their motivation when they are a year or two into the practice of law. Other attorneys stop showing up after ten years when they get tired and give up.

According to BCG Search, the list below describes the types of attorneys who “show up.” Top law firms want these attributes from their attorneys, no matter if they are first-year associates or on track to make partner. Top law firms know these attorneys are “showing up” and thus committed to success.

Attorneys Who Went to the Best Schools, Got the Best Grades and Got Positions with the Best Law Firms

The better you do in law school, the more seriously you treated it and the more obvious it is that you showed up and applied yourself. While law firms have no way of knowing it, they presume you studied harder, applied yourself more, and “showed up” more than your peers. Law firms big and small value people who were summer associates in large firms and had their first jobs with the best law firms. Your law school, grades, and first job all demonstrate your ability to show up.

Attorneys Who Bill the Most Hours

Inside of law firms, billable hours are the holy grail of showing up. Attorneys who bill a lot of hours are typically the most valued inside of law firms—at both the associate and partner levels. Billing a ton of hours shows that you have a lot of energy to give, you are interested in what you are doing, your work has value to people outside the firm, you are making the firm money, you are willing to sacrifice your personal life for your work life, and you can sell yourself. 

Obviously,  hours are about “showing up.” The more hours you bill, the more you are showing up.

Attorneys Who Desperately Want to Get Ahead

Law firms like attorneys who went to the best schools and had the best grades, because this shows that they are motivated and trying to get ahead. It also shows that you want to impress the powers over you and will dedicate yourself to this with a lot of enthusiasm. 

Barnes writes, “I used to interview and work with attorneys who could not get jobs from top law schools around the country. Believe it or not, there are lots of graduates of the best law schools who often cannot get positions each year. Many of them are quite talented, have good grades and are very smart. These attorneys would go into their interviews with large law firms and have zero enthusiasm. Many were very smart and had gone to good high schools and colleges, but that was all they had. They had very little enthusiasm and drive.

Attorneys Who Have Never Left Law Firm Practice for Another Type of Profession

What law firms really dislike is when an attorney highlights things on their resume that have nothing to do with practicing law. This indicates that working in a law firm is not the most important thing to them.

This means taking in-house positions, multiple judicial clerkships after practicing, time off operating an unrelated business, becoming a solo practitioner and the like. Law firms are what they are. They are efficient businesses with their own set of challenges and ways of doing things. If someone is not committed to this, the odds are they will not succeed if hired by a large law firm,” explains Barnes.

Law firms want people who are going to show up. The most successful attorneys in most law firms always show up. Just doing the work you are given, is not enough.

For more insight into the importance of showing up, read the original article written by Harrison Barnes here.



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