Rainmaking Recommendation #268: Your Compensation May Depend Upon It

Image courtesy of Pixabay/Engin_Akyurt

In June of 2022, Above the Law’s Kathyrn Rubino wrote an article entitled, Biglaw Firm Slashes Salaries of Associates Who Aren’t Busy Enough.   In it, she detailed how AMLAW firm Steptoe & Johnson was going to reduce the pay of certain associates who were not meeting the performance expectations of the firm.

In another article, this time on Law.com by Bruce Love, who spoke with Firm Chair Gwen Renigar, it was further clarified that out of the 170 associates at the firm, only 10 of them had their salary reduced by 80% and some of those have actually asked that their salary be reduced to accommodate a work-life balance. 

Ms. Renigar is quoted as saying: “This policy is about fairness and flexibility . It’s intended to provide equitable treatment to associates—essentially meeting them where they are. If they are going to work very hard and be full-time, that’s recognized. If they are at a point in their life where, for whatever reason, they don’t want to work full time, we can accommodate that. It is the fundamental fairness of allowing for—and accommodating—flexibility. We’re treating similar associates similarly.”

I am not against paying people what they are “worth” in terms of their productivity and I am happy that they have allowed some associates to dictate their billable hour requirements to help them find a balance in their lives.  However, I have concerns about this that weren’t addressed by these articles. 
For example, what constitutes productivity?  Is it just billable hours? Or will pro bono work, or firm administration, or business development activities be included?  And if it is just billable hours, while they are saying that they are being fair, how do the superiors dole out the work? 

What I mean is that many associates are given work by their superiors.  As an associate, you have to ensure that you are provided enough work to keep your productivity to the level required by the firm.  There are many reasons why an associate may not have enough work that has nothing to do with their desire to be productive:

  • They may have a personality conflict with their supervising partner or other senior associates
  • They may not be being trained in a manner that is effective for them but being trained “like everyone else”
  • They may be introverts and not understand that they have to ask for work sometimes
  • And other reasons, including diversity and inclusion issues (which have been very widely and statistically detailed). 

And this is when you must begin your Rainmaking (business development) efforts
As an associate, you may not be required to bring in new business, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be networking.  And the first people with whom you network are your colleagues.    

As a new or relatively new associate, your colleagues are your “clients.”  And as such, you have to do all of the activities and tasks that you would do in order to meet new clients outside of the firm:

  • you have to introduce yourself,
  • you have to keep in touch with them on a regular basis,
  • you have to get to know who they are and what they need
  • you have to contact them via phone, have virtual contact, and go to their offices when they are at the firms’ offices

Remember, the first rule of Rainmaking is relationships.  This includes creating relationships with the people in the firm who can provide you with work.   

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