Associate Advice

In the first part of our Career Center “Tip of the Day” series, focused on how junior associates can become more indispensable to their law firms, we covered the importance of taking ownership of your work.  Today, we’ll highlight a productive way to spend your precious non-billable time.  These tips are provided by the experienced recruiters at Lateral Link, who, in addition to providing sound career advice, can assist you with a lateral move to one of hundreds of law firms or in-house positions they have in their network.

Now on to tip #2…

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Whether you’re a junior associate just barely surviving Biglaw, thriving in Biglaw, or somewhere in between, this Career Center Tip of the Day series is for you.

For many of you junior associates, the extent of your experience with Biglaw layoffs was reading about them on Above the Law from the safety of your law school classroom.  But now that you can call yourself a cog in the Biglaw wheel, perhaps you’ve wondered what you can practically do to set yourself apart from the rest of the pack, just in case the economy takes another turn for the worse.

Or maybe you’re the superstar of your class, and you never worry about getting the ax. These tips are for you, too. The more valuable you become to your firm, the more control you will have over the direction of your career.

Now, on to the first tip….

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Ed. note: Have a question for next week? Send it in to [email protected].

Dear ATL,

One of the things I don’t like about your blog is that you never have anything for Biglaw Bros who are just looking to use their jobs and money to score chicks. It’s fine to talk about women’s issues, debt issues, layoff issues and all that stuff. But aside from casual references to “models and bottles” you don’t seem interested in actually helping dudes who want to find pretty, young, not-too-intelligent slam pieces “on the reg.”

– What About Us?

Marin, the usual author of this column, is on vacation this week — which is probably why I get to address this question that was hurled at me while I was trying to watch the AFC Championship game. I’ll do my best Marin impersonation (if you promise not to tell her), and see if we can’t get the “bros” in our audience pointed in the right direction…

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In the comments to Elie’s Sugar Mama post from yesterday, which chronicles the woes of a female Biglaw associate who is being harassed by coworkers for affiancing (KABLAM: Princeton Review Hit Parade) a Starbucks barista “peasant,” Bonobo_Bro wrote:

Not bad big guy (other than the usual typo issues which must be intentional); however, I really think you should’ve handled this pls handle thx style because I’d love to see Marin’s opinion of women with lower income life partners.

Rex and either thirty-six other anonymous internet trolls or one troll logging on from 36 different computers liked this comment. My mandate was clear. The people thirsted for my response…

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Ed. note: This post is by Will Meyerhofer, a former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney turned psychotherapist. He holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work, and he blogs at The People’s Therapist. His new book, Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy, is available on Amazon.

I was chuckling with a client the other day about the insanity of trying to please a partner with a piece of written work.

The trick, she said – I’ve heard this before – is to adopt the voice of the partner. That’s what he wants – something that sounds like him. It doesn’t matter if your style is better than his. He wants to hear himself.

My client can imitate the writing styles of five partners. That includes whatever quirks – run-on sentences, rudeness, biting sarcasm, unnecessary adjectives, circuitous explanations – capture that partner’s unique gift. It’s a piece of cake: assemble substance, add ventriloquy, and voila! – a happy partner…

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Inside Straight, Above the Law’s new column for in-house counsel, written by Mark Herrmann.

Please think for a second before you hit “send” and launch your next e-mail.

There are actually a bunch of things you should think about before sending your next e-mail, but today I’ll rant about just one: the “subject” line.

My rant comes in three parts.

First, the “subject” line has the potential to be helpful. At a minimum, an intelligent subject line can get my mind in gear for the information that I’m about to read, and perhaps can give me some sense of the urgency of your communication. At a maximum, an intelligent subject line can convey an entire message.

So use the thing! Please don’t send me e-mails with subject lines that are entirely blank. You’ve missed an opportunity to make communication easier, and you’ve forced me to pop open your e-mail to learn what you’re writing about. Put a few words in the subject line, to tell me what’s coming.

Second, please remember who I am and who you are. If you work at Kirkland & Ellis, it wouldn’t be too helpful to receive many e-mails with subject lines that read “Kirkland & Ellis.” That subject line wouldn’t distinguish one e-mail message from the other. You are Kirkland & Ellis; you don’t need to be told that every e-mail is about Kirkland & Ellis….

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So lawyers, if you’ve recently been laid off or have been out of school for over a year without a job, it’s probably time to look at your résumé and take out any reference to the fact that you’re, you know, “dynamic.”

Sure, you might be. But so is everyone else. And, more importantly, nobody cares anyway.

LinkedIn’s analytics team reviewed 85 million LinkedIn profiles and came out with a list of the most “clichéd and overused” phrases found on people’s resumes.

As they succinctly say, “You know what they are — those ambiguous ones that really don’t tell you anything.”

Here are the 2010 top 10 buzzwords used in the U.S., according to them….

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Flattery will get you everywhere in your legal career.

Really. Professors at the Kellogg Business School did an entire study and figured out that people with a legal background are especially skillful at sucking up — and sucking up will take you far.

On the one hand, this shouldn’t surprise anybody. People kiss up because kissing up works. On the other hand, the study is massively disappointing. You’d think that people could see through blatant brown-nosing. But people in powerful positions either can’t see through the BS, or they actually like it when underlings kiss the ring.

Truth to power? Overrated. Sniveling in front of your betters? That’s what people are looking for…

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The proverbial brass ring.

Even in the economic heyday of a few years ago, making partner at a law firm was never a guaranteed outcome for every associate.  But at large law firms today, partnership prospects look worse than ever. Whether you want to pursue that elusive partnership goal or opt out to work in-house, one thing is certain: you can’t just expect everything to fall into place; you have to take control of your career.

Last month, the Career Center’s Miami Professional Development Panel provided insider perspectives on how associates can increase their chances at making partner or landing an in-house job.  Panelists included:

  • Adolfo Jimenez – Partner, Holland & Knight
  • Tiffani Lee – Partner, Holland & Knight
  • Albert Dotson, Jr. – Partner, Bilzin Sumberg
  • Jonathan Jaffe – Director & Associate Counsel, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd.

What did they have to say?

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Today is the official release date of Law & Reorder, a new book by Deborah Epstein Henry, a leading consultant to the legal profession. Henry, whom we’ve interviewed and written about before, is an expert on such topics as workplace restructuring, talent management, work/life balance, and the retention and promotion of lawyers — all topics that are covered in her book.

We chatted with Henry on Friday over the phone, about the changes taking place in the legal profession, whether they’re good news or bad news, and how law students and lawyers can navigate in this new environment….

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