Resources Newsletter Archive Issue 16, September 2001

Issue 16, September 2001

  • Now That You're a Partner...

Making The Hours of Your Life Worth More™

Issue # 16
Now That You're a Partner...



ARTICLE SUMMARY: Promotion to partnership is an ideal time to reassess career and personal goals. A business development plan designed with your whole life in mind will provide success and satisfaction. A process for designing such a plan follows.



Ellen Ostrow, Ph.D., Editor

Ellen is the founder of™ Personal and Career Coaching for Lawyers Determined to Achieve Professional Success AND a Fulfilling Life



Most attorneys -- especially women -- live impossibly busy lives. Finding a balance between work and life without sacrificing professional success, deciding on the best practice area or work setting, and making career transitions can be a daunting task, even for the most gifted and accomplished lawyer.

Just as every person deserves the best possible legal counsel, every attorney deserves professional, dedicated support in accomplishing her most important goals. You know how hard you've worked to get where you are -- you serve others, both personally and professionally. You've earned the right to both career success and a fulfilling life.

This newsletter is intended to help you create a satisfying life -- within, or outside of -- legal practice.


Now That You're a Partner...

"Success comes from doing what you enjoy. If you don't enjoy it, how can it be called 'success' "?
David Maister (1)

Congratulations! You've worked very hard and made many sacrifices in order to grab this brass ring. If you're a woman, you've joined a very select sorority - although 40% of those entering law school since the 1980s have been women only about 15% of law firm partners are women.

So much of an associates work life involves doing whatever project is assigned and learning to practice law and worrying about evaluations, there's little time for career and life planning. You may have needed the past few years of experience to help clarify your values, interests and talents. But becoming a partner in your firm is a wonderful opportunity to reassess your goals and redirect your actions accordingly.

Unfortunately, few new partners take advantage of this moment. Most become concerned with their firm's performance criteria and the pressure to become rainmakers instead of re-evaluating their own definition of success.

A woman attorney who'd recently attained partner status asked me how to balance the needs of her two young children, her new responsibilities managing clients and projects, and the pressure she felt to become a rainmaker.

"What do you WANT to do now?" I asked her.

It's easy to neglect reassessing your goals when you've just accomplished what you'd thought you most wanted. If you change your mind, will all the lost weekends and holidays you spent toiling at your work be wasted?

Absolutely not. Whatever you decide to do next, you've demonstrated a number of important things to yourself:

* You have the ability to practice law well.

* You have the interpersonal skills necessary for establishing and maintaining relationships with clients.

* You have self-management, organizational and planning proficiency.

Certainly, no one can reasonably question your commitment, dedication or fortitude.

When I first began coaching women lawyers, I asked many who had been successful to identify behaviors critical for achievement in the legal profession. Too many of these women answered: "I just don't have a life."

This answer is simply unacceptable.

The alternative, then, is to work at taking control of your life and your career. Here are eight steps to take control of your new partnership and your life:

1. Clarify your life roles and goals in each area

Consider your roles as attorney, parent, partner, child of aging parent, friend, community member, etc. What are your goals in each of these roles? What would you have to do in order to accomplish these goals? What are some action steps you can take within the next three years to move you toward your goals?

2. Define success for yourself

Your firm will define success in terms of the profitability of the business you bring in. But lawyers are most successful - i.e., profitable - when they're providing service to clients they truly like and respect about matters they value.

If you have no sources of satisfaction other than work, your office will be a place to hide from the emptiness in your life. You're far more likely to be successful in your career if you have close and satisfying relationships outside of work. If you're a parent, your definition of success probably includes establishing a certain kind of relationship with your children or enabling them to achieve self-confidence, security and self-sufficiency.

There is no definition of success you "should" have. Just be sure the definition you use is your own.

3. Determine the kind of work about which you can be passionate

Enthusiasm, interest and passion are essential for success in your practice. The reasons for this are simple: excellent professional work requires focus, and without genuine interest, sustained focus is nearly impossible. Excellent client service requires that you genuinely care about your clients and their needs. And clients who experiences your genuine interest in their business or personal goals are loyal clients.

It's really a win-win situation: do what you love and you'll do it successfully.

4. Specify the kinds of work and clients that are most fulfilling for you

Review the work you've done during the past several years. With which clients did you most enjoy working? What types of matters fascinated you most? Which projects gave you the greatest sense of pride and satisfaction? Your answers provide the basis for your client development plan.

5. You're a free agent - do what you love regardless of your firm's approach to business development

Even if your firm focuses on the quantity of work and new business rather than the quality of professionalism and how good the new business is, you can still take control of your own business development. Marketing to people you like about issues that fascinate you will most likely generate the kind of revenue that will satisfy your firm and lead the other partners to pat themselves on the back for making you partner.

However, if you've outgrown the kind of work you've been doing and your firm cannot support a practice consistent with your interests, you'll have a problem aligning your goals with those of your firm.

Similarly, the quality of client service is affected at every point of contact between firm and client. You'll need to be able to count on your firm to support you by demonstrating concern for clients at every contact point.

If this support is unavailable in your firm, you may need to consider a lateral move.

6. Remember that the essence of marketing is relationship building

Marketing is neither advertising nor selling. Far from being outside of women's behavioral norms, business development relies on the skills most women have been refining throughout their lives.

"Being good at business development involves nothing more than a sincere interest in clients and their problems, and a willingness to go out and spend the time being helpful to them." (2)

Don't sell - help. You know how to do this.

7. Plan your career with your whole life in mind

Use the action steps you detailed in step #1 to fill in your monthly, weekly and daily planner. You can undo all your good intentions by failing to make a specific implementation plan.

Schedule time for your family, time to take care of your personal needs, and time for client development along with the appointments you typically schedule.

If you're doing work about which you're passionate, with people you enjoy, your schedule will be filled with activities that bring you personal and professional satisfaction - and you'll be accomplishing what you've defined as success.

8. The eighth step is described below.


1. Maister, David H. (1997) "True Professionalism." New York: The Free Press. P.31

2. Maister, David H. Ibid. P.28


Step # 8: A SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT is about to launch a VIRTUALGROUP OF WOMEN PARTNERS (*) that will address participant's shared life balance and career development challenges and provide practical strategies for success and satisfaction.

We'd like your input about ideal times for the group and preferred topics so we can tailor the group to your needs. If you're interested, please email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and put PARTNERS GROUP in the subject line.


(*) A virtual group is a group conducted via teleconference call. All you need to participate is a telephone. Women partners throughout the U.S. can join together to problem-solve, learn from one another and provide mutual support. Ellen Ostrow, Ph.D. will facilitate the group.


BEYOND THE BILLABLE HOUR™ is published monthly by Ellen Ostrow, Ph.D., founder of She brings 20 years of experience assisting women attorneys to her work in Lawyers Life Coach™. is a professional and personal coaching firm specializing in working virtually (by phone with email and fax backup) with women attorneys interested in developing strategies to find greater satisfaction in their careers within the law or in exploring career alternatives for lawyers.

Ellen Ostrow, Ph.D. established to coach busy lawyers who might benefit from the insights gained from 20 years as a psychologist combined with her experience and familiarity with the legal profession.

Ellen holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Rochester and is a managing member of Metropolitan Behavioral Health Care, LLC, a multispecialty, multidisciplinary psychotherapy practice in Washington, D.C. and suburban Maryland.

She is a member of the International Coach Federation and a graduate of the Mentor Coach Program™.


NOTE: BEYOND THE BILLABLE HOUR™ is intended for informational and educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for a personal consultation with a mental health professional and should not be construed as a form of, or substitute for, counseling, psychotherapy, or other psychological service.



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Ellen Ostrow, Ph.D.
Phone: (301) 578-8686
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© 2001 — 2008 Ellen Ostrow. All rights reserved.

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