Small Firm Life: Does the Workhorse Get the Biggest Raise?

It's raise time for the attorneys at my firm and although we still don’t know our exact raises, after some gossiping we are pretty certain who is ranked at the bottom and at the top.  Knowing the rankings, I can assure you that the “workhorses” did not get the biggest raises.  The people who are ranked the highest are not the attorneys that work the longest hours or have the most legal knowledge, they are the attorneys who know how to “play the game” the best. 

 Unfortunately, for people who thought playing the game was only for law school, politics will always be a part of your career. “Playing the game” in many firms means billing the most hours and understanding the firm as a business.  This makes sense, working long hours does not necessarily mean that you are making the most money for the firm.  In fact, sometimes it appears as though you are inefficient and cannot finish your work in a reasonable time. 

 In my office, playing the game is not only about billing, but also about knowing how to appeal to the partner on a personal level because he thinks it’s important to really “understand” his employees.  Honestly, I am great at billing and everyday I learn more and more about the way our firm, as a business, is profitable, but I have not quite figured out how to relate to the partner on a personal level.  I don’t know where exactly I am ranked (thankfully I am not last!), but I do know who is ranked first and she is not a workhorse, in fact she is a senior attorney who leaves at 6:30 everyday, but she knows how to play the game.  As for me, after two years at my firm, I still have not quite mastered the game, but at least I’ve learned the rules! 

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