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Become a collaborative leader to move up in your law firm

As a young attorney, you are eager to grow and move up the rank in a law firm.

You are doing your job, winning cases, and billing hours, but that doesn’t seem to be enough. In an industry where caution and skepticism are often used as a description, it is easy to compromise to climb the ladder. For instance, it is easy to build allies with a senior associate on the mutual negativity towards another associate. In the moment, you may think this will help, but in the end, it usually makes climbing the ranks harder.

This brings up the question, how can you move up in your law firm without falling victim to alliances, backstabbing, and doing whatever it takes to win at the expense of others in your firm?

Become a collaborative leader.

A collaborative leader is one who brings teams – paralegals, associates, executives, and partners – together organically to help clients and strengthen each other. A collaborative leader can be trusted and does not take cheap shots for their own gain. Young attorneys can lead the way as a collaborative leader and be a catalyst to build the firm’s culture from a silo mentality to team mentality

There are three characteristics of a collaborative leader that you can adopt as a young attorney to help you build trust and move up in the ranks.

Share control

Everyone in the firm has unique skillsets and expertise that builds a strong reputation of a firm. Sharing control as a collaborative attorney involves recognizing your associates skillsets and expertise and interacting together to meet your client’s needs. Clients are more likely to work with a firm where the staff and attorneys work together. Internally, sharing control helps build trust among members of the firm.

Address conflict

Addressing conflict within the firm should not be feared or avoided. We know that internalizing issues is like a volcano. It will eventually explode. In a law firm, the explosion could look like a division within the firm or people leaving for a “better firm.” Conflict needs to be addressed and more often than not, the resolution strengthens a team. Storming into an associates office yelling is not a good approach to addressing conflict. However, you can step towards resolution by addressing it calmly, resisting the urge to blame and name-call, and listen to their side with an open mind.

Consider the personality types of team members

A collaborative leader recognizes and sees the need for different types of personalities in the firm. Collaboration does not mean you all think the same. You collaborate because you value the different personality types which often bring a different perspective and energy to the firm. According to The Hired Guns, there are four types:

  1. The Driver – Direct, decisive, determined

  2. Analytical – Precise, logical, careful, methodical

  3. Amiable – Warm, approachable, friendly, inclusive

  4. Expressive – energized, optimistic, visionary

It is probably safe to say that law firms have more Drivers than the other types, but there are other types in your firm. Which one are you? Which ones are the other members of your firm? Recognizing that a team member is Expressive and not Analytical, will help you collaborate with them more effectively.


Moving up in a law firm is challenging, but a cutthroat, looking-out-for-myself mentality is not the way to do it. Do you want to improve the culture of your law firm and move up in the rank? Strive to be a collaborative leader and build trust by showing that you are putting your clients, your team, and your firm above yourself for the common good.

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