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Career Center: Top 10 Tips for Junior Associate Success

Career Center AboveTheLaw Lateral Link ATL.jpgWelcome to the next article in our Expert Insights series, brought to you by the ATL Career Center. This week, we spoke with Katy Lewis, Associate Director at Lateral Link, who works with associate candidates on law firm searches in Chicago and the Midwest, and with candidates seeking in-house positions. Katy has worked closely with associates, recruiting coordinators and hiring partners at many national firms, so we asked her to share her Top 10 list of what they want to see in junior associates. Whether you are a new associate or just considering a career move, the Top 10 list is useful checklist of what you can do to succeed at a firm.

As a reminder, all Career Development articles, as well as additional career coaching information, are available in the Resources section of the Career Center.

Top 10 Tips for Junior Associate Success

10. Take advantage of slow periods. Use the time to organize your office, attend a CLE, catch up on business/legal current events (WSJ, NY Times DealBook, AmLaw Daily, etc.).

9. Develop a good working relationship with your assistant and paralegals. The better your relationship with the staff, the easier your job will be.

8. Learn how to use technology.  Become proficient with firm software – learn to use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Westlaw, Lexis, document compare software.  Understand how to use the telephone – learn to transfer, conference call, dial international, etc.  Nothing is below you as a junior associate.

The rest of the tips, after the jump.

7.  Network.  Both external and internal networking are important.  Join the local bar association and other young professional organizations.   Get to know clients – especially those people at your level – as you grow and advance in your career, so will they.  Meet people within the firm and build relationships.  Just taking 15 minutes to grab coffee with a partner can make you memorable — when it is time to staff a case or deal, the partner may call you first.  Do not limit yourself to networking within your practice group — everyone at your firm offers networking opportunities.  Ask to work on a pro bono project with a Partner from another practice group.

6.  Do not be afraid to ask questions.  Do not make assumptions and make sure to get direction when you need it.  However, recognize that it’s better to go to a senior person once with a number of questions than multiple times with single questions.

5.  Do not be invisible.  Make sure partners and associates know you are around and ready to work.  Don’t wait for work to come around to you – seek out assignments.

4.  Be responsive.  Let your assistant know your whereabouts during the business day and provide a cell phone number if you will be out of the office. As a junior associate, what you are working on is not usually complicated, so it is important that you are efficient and responsive – it is how clients and partners will judge your capability.

3.  Be indispensable.  Be the person who always knows where key documents are, when deadlines are, what the issues are.  Always bring the contact list for the case or deal and an extra copy of key documents to meetings.  The partner or senior associate may not have that information handy and if you can produce it quickly then you make their lives easier.  Keep senior associates and partners in the loop – more information is better than less.  To be indispensable, you also must be organized, thorough and detail oriented.  Check and double-check your work.        

2.  Learn from your mistakes.  You will make them and that is okay, but ask for feedback and don’t make the same mistake again.  And never hide a mistake – own up immediately, present a solution and ask for assistance. 

1.  Have a positive attitude.  This is more important than ever during the tough times law firms are facing.  Associate salaries are being cut and bonuses are not what they used to be, but try not to get caught up in the complaining and negativity that is becoming more common at the office.  Partners are also facing increased stress and their own set of problems, so try to remain enthusiastic and positive about what you are working on.

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