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Open Thread: Do Associates Get ‘Pigeonholed’?
(And If So, What To Do About It?)

Our friends at the ABA Journal are working on an interesting piece about associates getting “pigeonholed” at their law firms. They’re looking for some sources, opinions, and ideas. We’re hoping that you can help.
Some background, from Richard Acello, the reporter on the story:

By pigeonholing, we mean the tendency of an associate to get locked into a practice area — depending on what the firm does — because he/she was assigned to a lawyer or group upon joining the firm. So let’s say it was an intellectual property firm, and the associate does all patent prosecutions. (We can probably think of similar specialty/subspecialty examples in other practices.)

How does the associate branch out? After all, they probably don’t want to rock the boat or have partners think they’re unhappy, especially when compared to other associates who, say, have happily accepted being pigeonholed.

Who should be responsible for this? Should the firm have a built in way to make sure associates get a variety of work, or should it be the associate’s responsibility to speak up?

These are all excellent questions. If you have some thoughts, please opine in the comments (and provide some descriptive information in your signature if possible — e.g., “IP associate at East Coast law firm”). You can also contact reporter Rich Acello directly, via email, by clicking here. Thanks.

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