But as it turns out, as reflected in our traffic stats and in various messages sent directly to us, people actually want to learn about methods for staying (or looking) busy while they put in their law-firm face time. Does this mean work is slow? All these unused billable hours don’t bode well for bonus expectations this year.
Anyway, here you go: 7 more ways to kill time while working at a law firm….
1. Read, read, read.
You can start with Above the Law, of course. For example, you can go back and read all the career advice stories that you skipped in favor of funnier fare. Or you can see the world from the vantage point of your clients, by reading the posts of our excellent in-house columnists, Mark Herrmann and David Mowry.
And then you can go beyond ATL. Here’s what noted media lawyer Charles Glasser, former global media counsel for Bloomberg News, shared with us:
This is going to sound like a geek rant, but as a young associate I wanted to get into a very narrow, highly-competitive field (First Amendment law). So I spent all my “down” time searching dockets for new cases and reading articles about the latest developments in the area. Use your “down” time to become an expert in your area, I say. It paid off for me.
If you come across interesting articles — from newspapers, magazines, law reviews, or online sources — you can circulate them to colleagues and clients. Instead of just forwarding, do try to add some value if possible, perhaps explaining how the article relates to a current or potential issue that your colleague or client is facing.
2. Catch up with colleagues, clients, and friends.
Have lunch or drinks with colleagues at the firm (from secretaries to partners and everyone in between); you can learn valuable information, such as who’s great (or not so great) to work with, who’s still on The Partner Track (affiliate link), and who just landed which client. Also try to meet up with friends outside the firm, whether they are law school friends at other firms or friends who work in other industries; they might be able to alert you to interesting opportunities. And, of course, you should check in regularly with current clients or former clients you’ve remained friendly with; that way you’ll be “top of mind” should they need legal help.
(To aid in the intra-firm networking, you can
do some stalking peruse your firm’s attorney directory or intranet, to find out who went to your college or law school or who lives (or has a second home) near you. You can use then befriend colleagues who share something in common with you. Bonus: while snooping around in the bios, try to guess how long it has been since people’s photos were updated — e.g., before they gained those 20 pounds — or guess people’s ages if they don’t include graduation dates.)
3. Catch up with (or even get ahead on) your continuing legal education (CLE) requirements.
Otherwise you might find yourself — as I did, as a young Wachtell Lipton associate — sitting though a last-minute CLE course on animal law. If you’re looking for wide offerings and good prices, check out the offerings from our friends at Lawline (affiliate link; special offer for ATL readers).
4. Work with your helpful legal marketing professional to enhance your firm website bio, optimize your LinkedIn page, update your contacts, and review your experience.
In an age in which general counsel are turning away from the top Biglaw firms, you can no longer rely upon your firm’s stellar reputation and institutional clients for work. Take the time to make yourself as appealing as possible to potential clients. Marketing is no longer a dirty word for law firms; heck, even Cravath now has a marketing director (Deborah Farone, “who is a delightful person and expert marketer,” in the words of Larry Bodine).
5. Do some deeper thinking and long-term planning about your career.
This step flows naturally from #4, and it can be undertaken after you’ve updated your contacts and reviewed your experience. If you’re happy at your current firm, that’s great, but you can and should still take time to think about professional development issues (whether you’re an associate, counsel, or partner). Are there skills you’d like to acquire or perfect, substantive areas you’d like to expand your practice into, or particular colleagues or clients you’d like to work with?
If you’re not happy with your current firm — again, whether you’re an associate, counsel, or partner — a slow period is a great time to start thinking about other opportunities. Do some research, and maybe talk to a few legal recruiters to see what opportunities or platforms might be out there for you.
6. Find empty conference rooms in which meetings had just taken place and scavenge for food.
Sorry, we had to include at least one somewhat silly item on this list. If you make friends with the receptionists, they can often direct you to the conference rooms with the best leftovers.
7. Hit the gym.
If you helped yourself to a few too many leftover panini, do something about it, before you end up overweight and out of shape. Make up for that 250-hour month by getting some exercise. Even if your firm doesn’t have a Skadden-style in-house gym (replete with freshly laundered workout clothing), you should be able to step out of the office for a quick session. Just take your
BlackBerry smartphone with you, so you can return to the office ASAP if summoned.
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Thanks to all my Twitter followers and Facebook friends, especially Julia Blankertz and Charles Glasser, who contributed ideas for this piece. If you have suggestions for a future listicle, feel free to send them our way, by email or by text message (646-820-8477).
1. Identified here with their permission. Our general rule is that we keep sources anonymous (although we may quote directly from messages sent to us, unless explicitly told otherwise).