The Lawyers' Path to Partnership: Work Ethic

Posted on 15/3/2022 by Edward Sorrell

Most law firms are seeking lawyers with strong work ethics to help take their business further. If you can demonstrate to prospective employers that you are determined to work hard, you are more likely to leapfrog above your competitors at the interview stages and on the path to partnership. Work ethic is a term that is bandied around but what actually is it and how do you improve yours?  

It is widely known the amount of work that goes into becoming a lawyer and then becoming a top lawyer, with many top lawyers working well over 40 hours a week. Sustaining a successful career in the law requires a lot of drive, patience and a top work ethic. However, having a strong work ethic doesn’t mean you have to compromise your work-life balance.  

Work ethic is a combination of personality traits, beliefs and qualities that you use in relation to your job. These qualities include determination, professionalism, responsibility, a goal-oriented approach, productivity and discipline. Law firms often seek individuals with strong work ethics as it shows the lawyer they choose will be dependable, productive, and determined to work at a high level. 


Strong work ethic skills: 


Poor work ethic skills: 

Hard work 













Unprofessional behavior 






How to improve your work ethic 

As we can see from the table above, there are a number of qualities that might contribute to someone having a good work ethic. Some people are naturally born with these qualities, but work ethic is by no means something that can’t be learned and mastered. Here are some ways to help you improve and maintain your work ethic: 

Minimise distractions – Focus is becoming harder and harder with all the distractions around, especially the more we work from home or even when in the office. Find ways to minimise the distractions that work for you. Find a quieter place to get your head down, leave your phone in your bag or another room or listen to music without lyrics so you don’t get distracted by the words. Whatever works best for you is the key. Try different ways of working until you find what’s right for you. 

Set goals – These can be short term goals like setting focus times or making sure that you submit all your work on time or larger goals like landing a promotion. Either way, goals will help put you on the path you truly want and stop you from slumping back into your old bad habits. Read our previous blog on goals to learn more. 

Manage your time wisely – By keeping track of how much time you spend on things, you can easily see what distracts you, when you work well and where you can improve. It’s always heartbreaking when you get your screentime report and it’s gone up 50% since last week, however, how would you improve upon this if you didn’t know. This “data” on yourself will help you improve your work ethic 

Collaborate better – work ethic isn’t just about you, it’s about working with others respectfully and dependably. Make sure you are getting the most out of your team and your team is getting the most out of you. This will not only help your workload but it will impress those around you and provide you with good lessons for life. 

Keeping organised – Remaining organised will help you save time in the long run and will also show those around you that you are reliable and dependable. Work ethic involves productivity, responsibility and discipline, and organisation sums it all up. Have filing systems for your emails and keep documents labelled in places you know, make sure meetings are all on time and no clients are left waiting and keep on top of deadlines! 


All of these tips will help you improve your work ethic. Choosing productivity over procrastination, building a reputation as someone to be relied on and adopting a collaborative can-do attitude showcases the qualities of a law firm partner and the faster you learn, the better you will become. 


What are the benefits of a strong work ethic? 

Improved job performance – Those who are dependable, productive and determined will find themselves doing more work more effectively. This means your firm will have less to worry about because of the professionalism and high quality of your work. 

Career advancement – If you improve your job performance, it is much more likely that opportunities for you to advance your career will come along and quicker than they might have done otherwise Law firms are much more trusting of those with strong work ethics. 

Higher job satisfaction – Doing a good job feels 10x better than doing a bad one. If you’re productive and efficient and focusing on your work, you’re less likely to be staring at the clock or complaining, so you’re likely to have higher job satisfaction. Being engrossed in your work is much more interesting than being grossed out by your work. 


Work ethic or work-life balance? 

This doesn’t have to be an either-or, in fact, they can go together. Having a strong work ethic doesn’t mean you have to compromise work-life balance, actually, the opposite is possible. By being able to remain productive and efficient with your work, aiming for a timely approach, you may actually end up with more output than you previously managed. This is because, during an 8-hour workday, the average worker only spends 4 hours 12 minutes actively working. Whilst this won’t be fully true in the legal sector, (we sure know it isn’t perfect) and having the right attitude to your work, remaining focused and remaining productive, you may see your hours reduce whilst producing more output. This will stand you in good stead on your path to partnership. 


Burnout can be a massive risk in the legal profession, and although the legal sector is starting to place more emphasis on mitigating the problem, the cure hasn’t yet been found. Read our previous blog on reducing the risk of burnout to learn about what you can do to help yourself on your path to partnership. 

The Lawyers' Path to Partnership – Work Ethic


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