USA Network is not known for its original shows. Shows on USA Network have complex plots that are better suited for short films, not multiple seasons of hour-long episodes. “Suits” is the exception to this rule. “Suits” is the tale of relatively young, successful lawyer, Harvey Spector, and his protégé, the degree-less associate, Mike Ross. The show has finally started to garner a big following during its second season, mainly because of the riveting storyline and the depth of its characters.
The show is also the first of its kind to have a successful millennial as its protagonist. No one will deny Harvey Spector’s brilliance. Ironically, I found that it’s not the seasoned Harvey Spector that I’ve been learning from, but rather his arguably naive associate, Mike Ross. I started watching “Suits” a few weeks before I started my first job and quickly saw some things at Pearson Hardman that I was hoping to find at my new agency. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned from Mike Ross over the show’s three seasons.
One of the first tasks that Harvey bestows upon Mike is to get a new suit. Mike was a bit confused as to why the brand or look of his suit mattered so much. Harvey wants his associate to look the part so that he can be taken seriously. Soon after Harvey commissions Mike to get a new suit, he makes fun of how slim his tie it, yet Mike continues to wear them. Look sharp and look your best.
As an intern at Rosetta Stone during my junior year, I was always the only person to wear a tie to work. I only went two days out of the six months of my internship without a tie. I do the same now at my current job, even though I’ve been told that I’m allowed to dress more comfortably. Every other day, someone makes a joke about me wearing a tie. Look sharp, but be yourself. Just because a tie works for me, doesn’t mean it’s authentic for someone else.
Our clothes send a message to others about who we are. As entry-level employees, it’s easy to get lost among the sea of cubicles. People may not know who you are or what you do, but the right look will leave a strong impression.
Find an ally
While Harvey personally took Mike under the wing, Mike had to find someone on the ground to help him learn his way around the firm, Rachel. Although Mike and Rachel have a complicated relationship, she’s the first person he goes to when he needs help. Rachel is at Mike’s side through almost all of his late nights at the office. She helped him understand the firm’s politics and serves as a great soundboard for him as he works to solve cases.
While we should be able to go to our superiors for help, it’s also good to have someone you can go to who is around your age and isn’t far removed from where you are. Make sure you add value to these relationships. Right now, when you’re just starting off, the best you can do to show your gratitude is to use the information they teach you to be great. People like to see how they have contributed to the success of others.
Mike does this exceptionally well due to his photographic memory. Harvey Spector couldn’t formulate an argument to disprove Mike’s genius. Yet even Mike Ross had things to learn when he became an associate. For example, Mike had no idea how to write a subpoena, work a courtroom, or manage up. However, he was able to submit the subpoena in time for Harvey to win the motion. He also turned his luck around relatively quickly and won his case in housing court. Mike has been successful because of his ability to adapt to his environment quickly and learn from his shortcomings. By learning fast he’s been able to cut his losses and impress his superiors. There are no office hours for the real world. Decisions need to be made and action has to be taken. Neither time, nor your boss, nor competition, waits for those who move slowly.
Don’t back down
Early in season one, Mike threatened to quit. He felt that Harvey was too hard on him and he wasn’t being treated fairly. Mike didn’t understand it was the nature of the business. Harvey gave him the option to leave if he felt he wasn’t tough enough. Mike showed up ready to work the next day. It wasn’t uncommon to see Mike staying in the firm library doing research after hours. Mike didn’t just take on the work that Harvey and Louis assigned him, he often created more work for himself.
At times, he challenged Harvey’s experienced judgment, which worked out better for the firm in the long run. In fact, it was the toughest cases that brought Harvey and Mike closer together.
Dominate your to-do list
Early in season two, Harvard Law School sent a representative to audit Pearson Hardman’s associate’s program. They wanted to measure the performance of their graduates and their level of happiness. Pearson Hardman is notorious for working their young lawyers. Louis was disappointed to hear that his associates weren’t happy. One night, he completes all of the urgent tasks of the associate class. The next morning he delivers them their completed assignments accompanied by a speech. He then proceeds to inform them that he is able to do all of their work much better and faster than all of them.
The moral of his story is that before you can move up, you have to master the little things. Believe it or not, our superiors are where they are because they can do our jobs in their sleep. If we want their jobs, we better show them that we can dominate our work.
Love the work
The second moral of Louis’ speech was that the associates should be grateful for the opportunity to work at a top law firm. Mike Ross is a prime example of what it means to love the work. Mike is very aware of the fact that he is doing the grunt work for a lot of the cases, but almost every morning he walks into the office with a smile. His passion for the work he does makes the tough aspects of his job much easier to deal with. When you love the work, it becomes that much easier and helps you keep your eye on the prize.
Now we might not all be young associates at a top law firm, but we share a common story. The corner office views, established reputations, and recognition will come. Until then, let’s take a page out of Mike Ross’ book and put on a show of our own.
What does your favorite TV show teach you about your career? Have a great tip? Share with us in the comments!
Ask Levo Mentor Binta Brown, associate at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, what helped her prepare for a legal career.