How I Made Partner: ‘Get Comfortable With Uncertainty,’ Says Samuel Bazian Of Herrick, Feinstein
Samuel Bazian, 35, Herrick, Feinstein, New York
Job title: Partner.
Practice area: Litigation.
Law school and year of graduation: St. John’s University School of Law, 2014.
How long have you been at the firm? I started at Herrick as a summer associate in 2013, and other than an approximate two-and-a-half-year stint at a boutique law firm, I have spent my entire career here.
What was your criteria in selecting your current firm? Working in Herrick’s Litigation Department provides unique opportunities for associates. I have often thought of it as providing the best of what both big and small law firms have to offer. We handle many complex, high-stakes disputes, but are generally leanly staffed; it is not unusual for one partner to work closely with one associate on a matter. This allows associates to not only learn directly from some of the best attorneys in the city, but to also take on significant responsibility at a relatively junior level. That’s exactly what I wanted—and what I was fortunately able—to do.
What do you think was the deciding point for the firm in making you partner? Was it your performance on a specific case? A personality trait? Making connections with the right people? The straightforward answer to this question is that making partner requires consistent dedication, performance at a high-level over the course of several years and building strong relationships with your peers and superiors. I like to think that I met those criteria, but still, those only get you into the partnership conversation. I believe those considering your promotion want to know: is this a person that I would trust to handle my clients’ most important matters? Is this a person that will care about their needs as much as I do? I’d like to think that the many partners with whom I have worked trust me to treat their clients as if they were my own.
Who had or has the greatest influence in your career and why? It’s difficult to choose any one person since there have been so many who have mentored and taught me along the way. From the start of my career, I have incorporated into my own practice certain skills and techniques that I have learned from many Herrick partners, all of whom have unique lawyering styles.
What advice would you give an associate who wants to make partner? I’d say a couple things. First and foremost, think about ways in which you can make the partners’ lives easier. Partners juggle so many matters at the same time—high-level strategy decisions, business development and administrative tasks, just to name a few—that an associate who takes the initiative and anticipates the partners’ needs can really add value. This is true for all associate levels. Offering to draft the client update, prepare outlines for oral argument and depositions or even volunteering to handle advanced tasks on your own can free up the partners’ time and energy for other matters. It’s also a sure way to demonstrate that you are a team player.
Second, take some time out of your day to build genuine relationships with your colleagues, including more senior attorneys. Although lawyers often work long hours, you would be surprised how many are willing to invest in your success, including by mentoring you, helping you navigate law firm life, and guiding you towards your goals.
When it comes to career planning and navigating inside a law firm, in your opinion, what’s the most common mistake you see other attorneys making? Being afraid to ask for help when needed. Many attorneys—junior ones in particular—feel that they need to have all the answers, even to complex issues, and that they show weakness by asking others for assistance. But even the most experienced practitioners need to frequently consult with their colleagues. This profession is not about knowing the answers to everything; it’s about knowing how to find the answers, and seeking assistance from others is one of the best and most efficient ways to do that.
What challenges, if any, did you face or had to overcome in your career path and what was the lesson learned? How did it affect or influence your career? Earlier in my career, I struggled with maintaining a work-life balance, as I was eager to prove myself to the firm. That became especially difficult when my kids were born—I now have three—and I wanted to spend time with family, while continuing to progress in my career. I’m extremely fortunate that the co-chairs of Herrick’s Litigation Department, Carol Goodman and Bill Fried, have stressed the importance of downtime, not just to recharge and boost productivity, but also to ensure mental and physical health.
Knowing what you know now about your career path, what advice would you give to your younger self? There are relatively few “right” or “wrong” answers to many of the questions attorneys deal with day-to-day; most involve judgment calls. If I could give my younger self advice, it would be this: get comfortable with uncertainty and basing decisions on the facts, research and other resources available to you. If those guide your decisions, you’re going to do just fine.
How would you describe your work mindset? I think of myself as a goal-oriented and analytical lawyer. One of the first questions I ask every client is, “What are you trying to accomplish?” Once I understand that, I can craft the roadmap to meet my clients’ goals.