on their life’s work—our reporters captured the possi-
bilities, anxieties, excitement and legacy of an extraor-
dinary group. Here are some of the takeaways you’ll
find this month in The American Lawyer:
THE EARLY YEARS. Midlevel associates, or those with
three to five years’ experience, are happier today than
midlevels have been in roughly a decade, according
to senior reporter Ross Todd, who analyzes our latest
survey of this group on page 74. Associates’ happiness strongly correlates with their belief that their law
school prepared them for the practical duties of life as
a lawyer. For that, Duke Law School and the University of Michigan Law School stood out.
But for all of you who supervise midlevel associates,
there’s room for improvement, our survey suggests.
Female associates want better training in project management and client relations; African-American associates ranked firms lower than average in the level of
responsibility they were given and the fairness of evaluations. Your associates are also crying for you to offer
feedback to them clearly, honestly and often.
Most surprising for me was learning that after three
years of law school and up to five years of work, one-third of associates said they have no idea what they
want to be doing in five years. Senior columnist Viva
Chen, on page 21, suggests that’s because the midlevel years are those when associates grapple deep down
with whether they’re cut out for this work.
AT THEIR PEAK. A big new class of managing partners is taking over at a quarter of Am Law 100 firms.
That realization was the inspiration for our “Welcome,
Freshmen!” cover story by senior writer Julie Triedman, beginning on page 54. These lawyers have had
successful practices, but now the required skills are different—and daunting.
As a whole, this group is somewhat older and more
experienced than their predecessors were when they
took the helm. Many say they still plan to practice law
and not just manage, which can be a mistake, according to the consultants we spoke with.
Firms still choose successors in distinctly different
ways, from frenzied campaigns among multiple candidates to the hand-picked protégé. Regardless, there
are right ways and wrong ways to pull off a succession,
experts told us. (One tip: Don’t allow the transition to
drag on forever.)
A RICH LEGACY. It has been a humbling experience
for me to help select this year’s Lifetime Achievement
Award recipients. The group includes those who have
made their names in law by serving their firms, organizations and companies with rare distinction and a lasting legacy. Their profiles, by reporters Drew Combs
and Susan Hansen, begin on page 63.
We asked honorees to share their advice for young
lawyers, which brings the cycle back full circle. A com-
mon theme: A law degree can take you anywhere, so
don’t limit your options. As Rhoda H. Karpatkin, the
former president of Consumers Union and a mentor
of mine, says: “Law schools tend to define success as
working for a large law firm. That’s a serious mistake.”
The American Lawyer | September 2014 9
Kim Kleman, Editor-in-Chief
In an issue about lawyers at inflection points
in their careers, there are lessons for everyone.
It’s not often that we showcase the career cycle of a life in law quite the way we do in this issue.
Talking to lawyers at significant inflection points in their careers—from associates who have had
their first taste of Big Law to newly elected managing partners to lions of the profession reflecting