Making partner at a law firm is no small feat under ordinary circumstances.
To be successful, candidates usually have to demonstrate superior client service, take on leadership roles in their firms and communities, contribute meaningfully to the growth of their firms, and have a sense of where they want to drive their practices in the future. And in this past year when we faced a global pandemic, an American reckoning with race and everything that comes with both, the road to the partnership was especially difficult.
So how did young lawyers who successfully sought out the partnership make it in a tough year? Our Insights team, which also includes Lisa Rockelli Gordon, Rob Wilhelm and MP McQueen, wanted to find out. Over the last few months, we’ve collected the stories of newly minted partners from 21 different firms, which we debut in installments starting today, and continuing on March 29 and April 12.
We call it “Making Partner in a Pandemic.”
These new partners tell stories that are inspiring and, above all, reflect our shared humanity. MoloLamken’s Sara E. Margolis details juggling client work and childcare. “In March 2020, I found myself locked inside a tiny bathroom, participating on an important conference call while my toddler banged frantically on the other side of the door. As I tried to time my participation—including careful use of the ‘unmute’ button—opposite his interruptions, it began to set in just how challenging trying to make partner while working remotely would be,” Margolis wrote.
They show us what we’re capable of when we refocus our minds to face a challenge. Wilson Sonsini’s Lori Westin found a silver lining in the virtual work environment: time. She used it to give back to her San Diego community to advance opportunities for women of color in the legal profession. “This move helped to solidify my pitch and became a backbone of my story for partnership,” Westin wrote.
To be certain, though these young lawyers found the positives, it wasn’t easy. In-person contact gave way to “unbearable” isolation, Westin wrote. And with a lack of casual hallway conversations, these young lawyers had to be more purposeful about communication, Reed Smith’s Nicole Soussan Caplan pointed out. “Because everyone’s schedules and work situations were similarly impacted, I found it was important to be particularly intentional, purposeful, and succinct when reaching out…I had to make sure I knew exactly what I needed to say and make the most of my opportunities to say it,” she wrote.
Click on the young lawyers’ names below to read their stories on how they turned the stress of 2020 into success. And then come back on March 29 and April 12 for our second and third installments in “Making Partner in a Pandemic.”
- MoloLamken’s Sara E. Margolis (New York)
- Vinson & Elkins’ Quentin L. Smith (Houston)
- Wilson Sonsini’s Lori P. Westin (San Diego)
- Reed Smith’s Nicole Soussan Caplan (Houston)
- WilmerHale’s Erik Swabb (Washington, D.C.)
- Morris, Manning & Martin’s Nick Foreste (Atlanta)
- Fisher Phillips’ James Patrick (Cleveland)
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