Associate Advice

I’m under the impression that many of our readers are looking for a new job, or at least thinking about it. Some of you are still in law school and haven’t lined something up yet. Others have been laid off by a firm and are trying to find a replacement gig. Still others are unhappy in their current situations, and are contemplating something better. But how many of you know what you’re looking for?

I mentioned earlier that I’ve given a lot of informational interviews in the past. I do believe that it’s the most effective and most overlooked job-search tool going. But I’m often struck by how many people I meet — especially law students — who already know what type of law they want to practice. I certainly didn’t when I was in school; I became an employment lawyer because an employment-law firm offered me a job. I marvel at 1Ls and 2Ls who already know what type of lawyer they want to be when they grow up.

Knowing this has its benefits: it can help you direct your career path. But it has its disadvantages, too. It can seriously limit your job opportunities.

Here’s how to handle that problem.…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Small Firms, Big Lawyers: You Know What Kind of Law You Want to Practice. Now What?”

Pile-o’-crap syndrome: We’ve all been victimized by it.

In private practice, it arrives in the form of four boxes of documents (containing about 2000 pages each) delivered to your door with a single handwritten note of explanation: “Here are the documents you’ll need to prepare Smith for his deposition on Wednesday.”

What does that note really say? “Here’s a pile of crap. I can’t be bothered. You deal with it.”

For an in-house lawyer, the pile o’ crap arrives in the form of a one-sentence e-mail responding to your request for a brief description of a particular lawsuit that’s headed to trial: “As you requested, I’ve attached my 100-page, single-spaced summary of the discovery record in this case.”

What does that e-mail really say? “Here’s a pile of crap. I can’t be bothered. You deal with it.”

In business environments everywhere, pile-o’-crap syndrome arrives in the form of e-mails that say only either (1) “see attached letter” or (2) “see attached chain of e-mails.”

What do those communications really say? “Here’s a pile of crap. I can’t be bothered. You figure it out.”

Why do people do this?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: A Disquisition On Pile-O’-Crap Syndrome”

Have you ever messed something up for a client? Ever make a mistake that was yours and yours alone, that caused your client a problem and you and your firm some embarrassment?

If you haven’t, then you haven’t been practicing very long. Because you can’t practice for a long time without making some mistakes. It’s human nature, and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying or self-deluding.

In 17 years of practicing as a small-firm lawyer, I made my share of mistakes. More than some lawyers, perhaps; fewer than others. Not so many that it prevented me from getting a reputation among clients and peers as a decent lawyer. But more than I wanted to make.

Obviously, we should strive to minimize the number of mistakes we make as lawyers, and to minimize their severity. But one of the most important things to learn as a lawyer is how to handle it when you’ve made a mistake.

Here are eight tips to help you fix your mistakes and make your clients love you.…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Small Firms, Big Lawyers: Sorry About This Post”

There is a neighborhood in Chicago that smells like chocolate. The reason is due to Blommer Chocolate Company’s Chicago factory. I have never been inside, but according to a documentary I once saw regarding chocolate factories, inside there is a chocolate river, Oompa Loompas, and an eccentric chocolatier.

Much to my surprise, there was an opening at Blommer for over a year. Among other qualifications, the position required the applicant to be able to taste and consume chocolate and other products. Who would not jump at the chance to work there? Admittedly, there were a few negatives to the position (see here), but overall it sounded much better than a typical job wherein one does not get to taste and consume chocolate (at least not as an integral part of the daily routine).

If only there was some professional whose job it was to match open positions like this with qualified applicants….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Size Matters: Why Some Small Firms And Small-Firm Lawyers Need Matchmakers”

I have become obsessed with LinkedIn lately (and not just because of their recent IPO). I am trying to become one of those people with the 500+ connections. So I troll the website for potential contacts on an hourly basis.

Yesterday, I found a few guys with whom I had gone to law school. These guys bypassed Biglaw and went straight to IP boutiques. Five years after graduating law school, these guys were all partners. Seeing this, I confirmed a theory I have long held: the road to success in a small firm is vastly different than that in Biglaw.

I do not mean to say that the path to success is easier in a small firm, despite the shorter path to partner for my classmates (which is not true for all small firms). In fact, in some ways becoming a successful small-firm associate may be more difficult than in Biglaw. So, how do you excel at a small firm? I asked some small-firm superstars to share their tips….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Size Matters: Tips for Becoming A Small-Firm Superstar”

It’s very difficult to get a job as an associate in a small law firm. First of all, there is a lot of competition. Many of you are between jobs. Many are at Biglaw jobs looking to get out. Many of you are finishing up law school and are still looking.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s also hard to get a job at a big firm. I know. But the path there is at least more straightforward: Go to a Top 30 (or so) school. Work hard. Finish in the top 20% or so in your class (the lower your school ranks, the higher grade ranking you need). Wear matching shoes to your on-campus interview at the start of your 2L year. Don’t get slizzard at your summer-associate firm functions. Pass the bar. Sell your soul. Collect your buck sixty.

Yes, yes, I know. It’s not that simple, and the large firms do look for other qualities, too. But no one in my class who met that top 20% threshold failed to get a Biglaw summer-associate job.

The path to small-firmdom is more circuitous. And by “circuitous,” I mean “there is no path.” It’s certainly not about being smart, working hard, and getting good grades and a good education. Those are table stakes.

But I’ve identified the ten traits that make the best candidates for a small-firm-associate gig. See what they are after the jump.…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Small Firms, Big Lawyers: 10 Traits That Will Get You Hired”

The Career Center is featuring a special series this summer for law students who want to excel as summer associates and ultimately secure permanent offers. Starting today and continuing throughout the summer, we will feature tips to help you manage your assignments, juggle conflicting demands, account for your time, handle feedback and criticism, and much more. These tips, focused on helping you navigate your law firm and summer associate internship, are provided by Frank Kimball, a principal of the Kimball Partner Group – a Lateral Link company, and an expert recruiter and former Biglaw hiring partner.

Today’s tips focus on how to maintain an attitude that will help you win over the partners at your firm and put you on the fast track to success. While not known for offering useful legal guidance, Elle Woods from Legally Blonde: The Musical offers great advice to summer associates: “Be positive.” You have already passed the first test, by initially securing the summer associate clerkship. Now you need to show off your dazzling personality — or at least demonstrate that you are at least tolerable during late-night doc review projects that await your future.

Keep the following tips in mind, whether you are working on a legal memo or hanging out at a partner’s summer house in the Hamptons….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Career Center: Tips for Summer Associates”

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 (affiliate link).

Associates at big law firms don’t normally burn out right away. They arrive bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, raring to go. This is their moment! Grasp the golden ring!

If you look closely, though, you’ll notice a few poor souls who burn out immediately – sometimes within a few weeks. These folks look awful almost from Day One, dread coming to work, don’t talk to the others, can’t sleep and wonder how to get out – like, immediately.

That’s because they’ve been sexually harassed.

Oh… that.

Right. That.

I know. Sexual harassment is a drag of a topic, the stuff of tedious lectures by gender theorists and “Human Resource professionals.” Nothing new to say, just standard material: wince-inducing scenarios, tired platitudes about respect and crossing the line and what’s appropriate in a workplace blah blah blah…boring, scary, boring.

I hear about sexual harassment all the time from my clients, so it’s a little less boring for me, and a lot more real. There is stuff worth talking about. But I’ll keep it quick.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Oh… That.”

Have you ever noticed that some lawyers become different people when they get in front of a keyboard?

It’s like a Jekyll-and-Hyde kind of thing. They might be perfectly pleasant individuals in real life, capable of warmth or at least civility to their fellow human beings. But get them in front of a computer with a law-firm template on the screen, and they turn into some sort of lawyerly unmanned drone.

Most lawyers, especially junior lawyers, have an idea about what a lawyer letter is supposed to look like. It generally has fancy lawyerly words like “pursuant to,” and it usually includes lawyerly weirdnesses like parenthetically writing numbers in figures after having just spelled out the numbers in words (“If we do not receive a response for you and/or your counsel in five (5) days …”), and it almost always contains threats about Very Bad Things happening. And they tend to be uniformly douchey.

But here are four (4) reasons why lawyer letters are less effective than phone calls.…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Small Firms, Big Lawyers: The Problem with Lawyer Letters”

It’s that time of year. The never-ending winter is finally retreating and we’re getting the few weeks that pass for spring in New York, before the city turns into a humid swamp for four months. The lucky ones who pocketed spring bonuses want an excuse to spend them. Minds drift to thoughts of vacation — a temporary escape from billable hours and fleeting chance to remember what sunlight feels like. If only it were that simple.

Fact: Americans on average get far fewer paid vacation days than workers in other developed countries, including Japan, which invented the concept of karōshi (death by overwork). Sadder fact: most Americans don’t use the precious few vacation days that they have.

Lawyers are particularly bad about this. Biglaw attorneys are lucky enough to get four weeks of vacation each year, but most don’t use them. These 20 paid, get-out-of-jail-free days are part of your compensation package. Refusing to use them is essentially giving your firm 20 days of free labor. I don’t know anyone who negotiates a lower salary or feels guilty about taking advantage of the firm health plan. Why should vacation be different? The Firm has no qualms about taking up all 24 hours of every one of the other 345 days of your year. Why wouldn’t you use your vacation days?

Associates whine that taking vacation from Biglaw is impossible. No it isn’t. Sure, it may be difficult, but it’s certainly not impossible.

All it takes is little common sense….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Should I Stay or Should I Go? How to Take Vacation from Biglaw Without Being Sent Packing”

Page 8 of 171...456789101112...17