Off the Press: 'Accelerating Lawyer Success'

Three social scientists who work in the legal arena have teamed up to write a new book that explores how to make partner and achieve a sense of success and fulfillment in the practice of law, proving through research that these aren’t as incompatible as many lawyers might think.

“Accelerating Lawyer Success: How to Make Partner, Stay Healthy and Flourish in a Law Firm,” released by the American Bar Association, captures the empirical research of social scientists Lori Berman, Heather Bock, and Juliet Aiken.

Their work suggests that skills, mindset and approach to work provide a more compelling picture of who succeeds in law firms than pedigree alone. Further, promotion to partner traditionally has been considered a key marker of success in law firms but achieved at great personal cost. But these researchers, taking a holistic approach to law firm success, studied self-perceptions of what it meant to flourish in one’s career and reports of general physical heath. To do this, they surveyed hundreds of lawyers from top U.S. law firms.

Under previous models, researchers looked at academic success or law school status in predicting who would succeed. More recently, the behaviors that lead to high performance, often called competencies, have received attention.

This new research takes an additional step toward understanding who is successful; the authors not only looked at how successful lawyers tackle their own work and how they work with others, but also analyzed how successful lawyers approach their work mentally. Their results, occasionally surprising, showed that law firm success depends on other factors rather than a high GPA or prestigious law school.

Given the difficult job environment and other challenges of the legal profession, “Accelerating Lawyer Success” is particularly valuable for law students, new lawyers or associates on the cusp of partnership.

The authors’ research, for example, examines the factors, competencies and attitudes that allow some lawyers to flourish and make partner while others struggle. The authors also show readers how to develop the same mindset and skills that they identified as the key factors behind the success of the lawyers studied.

Berman, Bock, and Aiken have spent years working in the legal area. Berman is the director of professional development for law firm Hogan Lovells. She is also a research affiliate and adjunct professor at the Georgetown Law School Center for the Study of the Legal Profession. Bock is the global chief learning officer for Hogan Lovells. She teaches at Georgetown Law and is the executive director for its legal profession study center. Aiken is the deputy director and research director at the center. She also directs a master’s program in industrial/organizational psychology at the University of Maryland, College Park.

The three authors, all with doctorate degrees in industrial/organizational psychology or organizational behavior, recently participated in a Q&A in the YourABA newsletter.

“Accelerating Lawyer Success: How to Make Partner, Stay Healthy and Flourish in a Law Firm” costs $79.95 and can be ordered online at shopaba.org or by calling 800-285-2221.

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