Anonymous User wrote:I mostly agree with you, but I totally disagree with the parts in bold. First, I completely disagree that associates should be soliciting non-billable projects and other such forms of shit work. In theory, partners would appreciate that you are doing shit work to get close to them. In reality, you are not making the partner as much money as the associate who is doing quality, billable work and you are not rising in anyone's esteem because the work you are doing is not respected. You distinguish yourself by doing a great job on difficult, money-making, skills-building billable work, not by picking up work other associates are smart enough to avoid.
Second, you learn how to say no by saying no. Saying no in big law isn't easy so you need to start practicing early in order to hone this skill. In addition, if you earn a reputation for taking on a steady stream of whatever comes your way and then suddenly start saying no, you will piss people off. Partners and senior associates know when they are dumping shit work on you or putting you in an impossible situation. If you don't push back, they will quickly come to not only expect but also feel entitled to your acquiescence. It will then be difficult to assert yourself, even in a reasonable way, without making enemies. You have to resist shit work and say no (tactfully) when you have enough work from the very beginning in order to avoid being constrained by a reputation you don't want. You won't always be successful in turning down work, but the attempt to resist sends a message about what kind of associate you are and what role you see yourself playing in the group.
All of this is especially true if you are any sort of "minority," whether you are a woman and/or of color and/or homosexual and/or foreign and/or something else that the white males in big law are not accustomed to respecting. I hope saying this isn't too blunt for this forum.
I don't believe that you were reading my response in the context of the question.
If you are looking for work with the "right" partner (as opposed to having landed in the right group by good fortune) you generally need to stretch to get the work you want. Very few partners will take on new associates without first assessing their work. Certainly don't offer to take non-billable over billable. But the good partners generally have more than enough people to do the billable work. If you are looking to get your foot in the door, non-billable work (whether client dev or the partner's pet pro-bono work, if they have any) can be a great way to get a trial run. It is low risk for the partner and doesn't take any billable hours out of the mouths of the associates they have already agreed to keep fed.
Likewise, moving from work you don't want to work you do want is a tricky move. Yes, you need to learn to say no early, but you need to do it in such a way that you aren't pissing off the people you do get work from before you have lined up the work you actually want. You do not want to be the associate who is consistently "unavailable" and only billing at 1/2 of pace. The more senior associates who have a steady stream of good work and don't seem to be killing themselves are the ones you want to talk to early on. They have figured out the art of saying no in a way that enhances their reputation, rather than trashes it.
Once you have found your way into the group you want, yes, you should focus on billable work and setting boundaries. But the OP was asking how to get into that position, which, if you didn't luck into it, can take a more careful touch.