Do you watch “Suits?” If so, you likely know that no associates want to work for Louis Litt. I suspect that the associates would like the opportunity to work for Harvey Spector, but they may not enjoy the experience.

Louis is a really smart lawyer, but lacks confidence. That makes him a challenging partner. Yet, if you watch this short video clip you know he has many redeeming qualities.

Harvey, on the other hand, may not be as smart as Louis, but he is smooth and confident. He is also a narcissist, which makes him a difficult partner.

Brice Voran and I wrote about a really smart lawyer who was also a rainmaker in our book: It Takes a Team: You Can’t Make Rain by Yourself. David is a narcissist, like Harvey.

You either have what it takes to make partner, or you don’t. You’re born with it, or you’re not. You have it in your genes – innate work ethic, abilities and talents that steer you to the top – or you sell used cars. Bottom line: Keith doesn’t have it, so he’s blamed his shortcomings on me and bailed. What a loser.

Just reading that line, you get a strong sense why David has chased off another associate and why Keith is moving on to another firm.

What are some things that make partners difficult? I am not speaking of things that would subject a partner and the firm to a lawsuit. I am speaking of speaking of assigning work and supervising the work. In my experience, difficult partners:

  • Don’t think any young lawyers measure up
  • Talk behind the backs of their associates
  • Make unreasonable demands
  • Do not explain assignments
  • Do not give their associates “the big picture” of the project
  • Give assignments at the last minute
  • Complain, but offer no constructive feedback
  • Are not consistent
  • Lose their temper

Lawyers like Louis Litt, Harvey Spector and David are not likely to change how they treat the lawyers who work for them until they see changing is in their own best interest. The most difficult partners don’t ever change.