In most large law firms, associates are distinguished by:

  1. Their number of billable hours; 
  2. Their class;
  3. Their practice group; and, 
  4. Their office location. 

Those attributes are hardly inspiring for the young lawyers.

How can you really get to know the young lawyers who work with you? I say it’s best outside of the office.

In 2003, I was named the partner in charge of attorney development at our firm. I know that the firm leader who selected me thought I would just be a figurehead. I couldn’t do it that way.

I asked to speak at an associates committee quarterly meeting. While speaking, it dawned on me that the associates I didn’t know had no reason to believe I really wanted to help them with their career planning.

I was determined to build their trust by getting to know them. First, Nancy and I took associates and their spouses, or significant others, to dinner in Dallas.

Then, whenever I traveled to one of our offices I would take a group of associates to dinner. If Nancy came with me, we would take three associates and spouses, or significant others, to dinner.

It’s pretty amazing how much Nancy and I learned about the young lawyers and their families over dinner. As a result, we were invited to weddings, received the first baby pictures, and we are now watching their children grow up on Facebook. Many of our former associates have become rainmakers in their current firms. 

I’ve coached lawyers for 10 plus years. Next week I will be meeting for the last time with the 10th group I have coached in one law firm. We will for the fourth time in a year eat dinner together. Why? I am convinced that people develop a deeper relationship with each other when they eat together.

Encourage your partners to take associates and their spouses to dinner. When partners get to know associates on that personal level, a sense of trust is developed and loyalty is created.