Associate Advice

In my line of work, I sometimes end up as a career counselor of sorts. People talk to me about what’s going on at their law school or law firm and ask me for advice about what to do.

I recently had occasion to speak with a lawyer who was laid off by his Biglaw firm. He remains on the website, but he hasn’t been to the office in months; that was part of the deal they negotiated with issued to him. He has been looking for a new job for months but has been having difficulty. He blames this in part on a lack of specialization — he’s a generalist, not really marketable as an expert in a particular type of litigation or transaction.

This reminded me of a chat I was having with an old friend from my high school debate days, who has found great professional success in a focused practice area. I contacted him again and our chat turned into a full-blown interview about how to become (and remain) a partner at a major law firm by establishing expertise in a particular field of substantive law.

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Megan Grandinetti challenges busy lawyers to practice positivity.

A few years ago, I was buried in work and traveling for business. I ran into a friend of mine on a train in Philly, and he spent the next hour listening to (a) how many hours I worked, (b) how much I hated what I was working on, and (c) how the people at my Biglaw firm had zero regard for my personal life (wait a second, WHAT personal life?). I remember being fairly detached and casual as I was talking about all of this (I did NOT burst into tears, per usual), but years later, my friend told me that after that conversation, he had put me on “suicide watch.”

About a year after the suicide watch train incident, I realized that I had become a person that I didn’t recognize: a whiny, angry, sad person who only saw the negative in everything. I decided to do a 40-day challenge, during which I gave up complaining. That’s right, I stopped complaining for 40 days.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Michael Allen is Managing Principal at Lateral Link, focusing exclusively on partner placements with Am Law 200 clients.

For senior associates up for partner, firms have become increasingly focused on business potential and less so on an associate’s ability to outclass others in the courtroom or at the negotiating table.

In the days of yore, the partner track in Biglaw was oftentimes a reward for consistent competence and professionalism. In an era of PPP and RPL, most firms (other than the Cravath, Quinn, or Simpson Thacher types) are less likely to promote associates unless they see real revenue-generating potential.

If you find yourself in your fifth to tenth year and are unsure whether you will make partner, here are four steps to help you steer your career…

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Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Megan Grandinetti explores three ways lawyers can achieve a healthy separation from work-related electronic devices.

Put your phone away for a minute. And your Blackberry if you have one. Turn them both on silent, lock them in a drawer, and mentally walk away from them. Just for one minute. Close your eyes and remember the last time you were free of these devices, the ones that haunt your every waking moment. There had to be a point in your life where your electronic devices did not OWN you. Maybe it was on your last vacation when you had the sand between your toes and a fruity drink in your hand. Reflect on that time, and relish in it for one whole minute. Liberating, isn’t it?

I have several clients and friends who have a hard time putting boundaries on their Blackberries and smartphones, allowing work emails to pervade every waking hour of their day. I know exactly how that feels because I, too, used to be a slave to my Blackberry. When I first started at Cleary, I kept my Blackberry on vibrate, and I kept it with me at all times. I went shopping with it. I brought it to fitness classes at the gym. I took it with me on dates.

Continue Reading at the ATL Career Center…

This is a real drink in a real glass with enough ice that it'll be appropriately watered down for networking.

Ed. note: This post was originally published on February 7, 2012. We republish it today as a public service to the law students embarking on their summer associate adventure, where social event drinking and small talk are the name of the game. Good luck!

There’s a list that’s been going around the past two days that purports to be A Drink-by-Drink Guide for networking events.

Don’t get your hopes up. It’s not really drinking advice for legal networking events. It’s regular advice for legal networking events that happens to use the word “drink” — instead of “level” or “number” — to demarcate the five tips in the article.

It’s fine advice, especially if you are so awkward socially that you can cool off a hot craps table simply with your inability to execute a high-five.

However, as a functioning alcoholic (emphasis on FUNction), I’ve got some real advice on how alcohol can help get you through these painful and boring networking events without being so terrified of not getting a job that your scent of desperation makes everybody want to stand three feet away from you.

Here’s how to look cool and confident while knocking back a few without getting so sloshed you end up on Above the Law in the morning….

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An anonymous associate in New York City.

The hope is that after 8 years, I’ll be made a partner. Until then, the job description basically states that I will be worked to death.

[My greatest fear about the next 8 years is] turning 40 and not having a personal life. Finding out that I’ve gotten where I want to be, but there’s nobody in my life to give a sh*t about where I am or what I’ve done.

– An honest associate who agreed to be photographed by Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York and share his story about life in Biglaw.

(Do you share the same fears? Feel free to sound off in the comments.)

Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Rob Jordan gives advice to attorneys on how to best position themselves to clarify or confirm their career path.

“Better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb than in the middle of some ladder you don’t, right?” — Dave Eggers, The Circle (affiliate link)

Everyday, many lawyers sit unhappily in their offices with little clarity about their professional futures. I know: I was one of them.

Today, the continued weakness and real-time evolution of the business of law merely compounds the uncertainty. In this environment, it is critical that lawyers regularly perform self-reviews to assess contentment and career trajectory.

These reviews will obviously be very personal. Some lawyers may simply conclude that their unease stems from the plain practice of law; that their law degree is a sunk cost; and that every day spent practicing law rather than pursuing a career acting, rapping, or starting a company is opportunity cost. Others, however, may not be fortunate enough to arrive at such a definitive conclusion; rather, they may be stuck in a state of inertia, unclear whether they like or want to continue to practice law.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center….

Ed note:This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Megan Grandinetti explains why “treating yourself” with your favorite foods may not be the best idea.

I gave a wellness talk at a law firm recently, and one of my tips for staying healthy while working crazy hours is to “streamline your Seamless”: pick a number of healthy, go-to meals that you can order during late nights at the office (and stick with those choices). Some of the participants were taken aghast by this suggestion: “BLASPHEMY!” they cried. “We deserve to treat ourselves for working so hard!”

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the “Treat Yourself” attitude is not going to work in the long run, unless you’re trying to gain weight for a movie role (Now Playing: The Chubby, Sedentary Lawyer).

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Abby Gordon is a Director with Lateral Link’s New York office. Abby works with attorney candidates on law firm and in-house searches, primarily in New York, Boston, and Europe. Prior to joining Lateral Link, Abby spent seven years as a corporate associate with Cleary Gottlieb, focusing on capital markets transactions for Latin American clients in New York and for the last five years for European clients in Paris. A native of Boston, Abby holds a J.D., cum laude, from Georgetown University Law Center and a B.A. in government and romance languages, magna cum laude, from Dartmouth College. Abby also worked with the International Rescue Committee as a Fulbright Scholar in Madrid, Spain. She is a member of the New York Bar and is fluent in French and Spanish (and dabbles in Portuguese and Italian).

Recently, I wrote a post on the 25 Things All Young Lawyers Should Know In Order To Not Screw Up Their Legal Careers. A number of lawyers contacted me after the post ran to ask if I could further discuss some of the points, and in particular, those relating to choosing the best law firm and the best practice area.

Choosing a law firm and a practice area is a big decision. While 62% of lawyers move firms within their first four years of practice, your career path will likely be clearly shaped by your first job as a lawyer. I cannot stress enough how difficult it is to switch practice areas once you have started your legal career. It is not impossible, but it can be very difficult. Some firms are much more flexible than others in letting you dabble in various areas before committing to a practice area. In fact, certain firms never officially require you to choose a group. However, it is extremely rare for associates to find opportunities to switch from one firm’s practice area A to another firm’s practice area B. If you are lucky enough to have this opportunity, you will almost inevitably be asked to take a haircut in class year.

So what are the major factors you should consider in choosing a firm as a summer associate or first-year associate?

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Katherine Hagman is a Director at Lateral Link where she places associates and partners throughout Chicago and the Midwest. She was a Corporate Recruiter in-house for one of Chicago’s fastest growing companies, and has several years of experience placing attorneys at Chicago law firms and companies. Katherine graduated magna cum laude from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and received her J.D. from Suffolk University Law School in Boston.

“We’re hiring!” it says. While intrigued by the opportunity, you are not really sure if you should consider a job change at the moment. You are happy where you are and so it just doesn’t feel like the “right time.” After all, they are nice to me here. It’s not so bad. It’s probably not any better across the street. Then again, maybe it doesn’t hurt to look. You can’t decide what to do!

While it is good to trust your gut, there are concrete elements that are going to be very valuable for your career trajectory as an attorney. For the sake of this article, let’s assume you are happy in your job and that if you weren’t, you would work on fixing that or move on.

I’ve been working with lawyers on their careers for the past seven years and it can be hard to really put your finger on whether or not you’re at the right place. This can change over time and it’s more or less a moving target.

I’ve created this quiz to help you take the temperature of your current job and to help you see if you need to think about moving somewhere warmer. Keep reading below for a breakdown of each question…

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