SMU Law Review Forum


This paper concerns the business of law, a subject ignored by legal academia and sugarcoated by the organized bar. If law professors express little or no interest in this subject, their students most certainly do. Indeed, I have found that students are desperately hungry for information on the day-to-day realities of working in a law firm. Students are especially keen to learn about possible paths for career advancement within firms, across them, or across the organizations served by the firms.

Paths for career advancement do exist, but they are not easy to find or pursue. Law firms are hardly going to assist their younger lawyers in this endeavor, as the interests of senior lawyers do not align with the interests of the associates. In fact, senior lawyers are engaged in competition with each other. As a result, younger lawyers may experience significant uncertainty and frustration in determining how to promote their careers.

This paper is my attempt to shed light on the hidden law firm dynamics likely to shape the career success or failure of junior lawyers working in law firms. Such knowledge may empower associates to think strategically about their careers, as their senior colleagues already do. The ideas presented here are based on my fourteen years of teaching in a law school and my eleven years working as an associate attorney or foreign legal consultant at four law firms in three countries.



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