Summer Associate Assignments

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Anonymous User
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Summer Associate Assignments

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 11, 2013 6:40 pm

I was wondering if people could share a somewhat detailed description of the kinds of assignments they received during their SAs. I know memos, motions, and briefs seem to be typical, but I was wondering if people could describe, for example, what sort of memo/brief topics they had? How many assignments were you typically juggling at once? How much time were you usually given (did you feel like it was enough)? What types of motions are typical to work on? What was the hardest assignment you received? Etc., whatever you feel willing and interested to share.

Thanks very much in advance. This will do wonders for my nerves and give me a sense of what I'm preparing for when I'm working on my research and writing skills this semester.

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ph14
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Re: Summer Associate Assignments

Postby ph14 » Fri Jan 11, 2013 6:44 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I was wondering if people could share a somewhat detailed description of the kinds of assignments they received during their SAs. I know memos, motions, and briefs seem to be typical, but I was wondering if people could describe, for example, what sort of memo/brief topics they had? How many assignments were you typically juggling at once? How much time were you usually given (did you feel like it was enough)? What types of motions are typical to work on? What was the hardest assignment you received? Etc., whatever you feel willing and interested to share.

Thanks very much in advance. This will do wonders for my nerves and give me a sense of what I'm preparing for when I'm working on my research and writing skills this semester.


I wouldn't be nervous. A summer associate position isn't too difficult and they are very forgiving. They are trying to recruit you at that point. A lot of the work done for a SA focusing on litigation is memos. It will vary, sometimes it will be an urgent and important issue that they need someone to research and figure out on a tight deadline. Other times it might be an issue that isn't a big deal but they want someone to figure out eventually so they save it for a summer. The briefs can be challenging, as you have to get familiar with a jurisdiction's case law in a particular field, but it's pretty similar to what you have done in your legal research and writing class. As far as the subject matter, it varies on the firm and practice area. The options are endless: immigration, securities, intellectual property, etc. etc.

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Wholigan
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Re: Summer Associate Assignments

Postby Wholigan » Fri Jan 11, 2013 6:54 pm

Litigation:
Reading deposition transcripts and writing a summary
Researching a discrete point of law and writing a memo with the answer
Editing an appellate brief and checking for bluebook correctness, grammar, etc.

Transactional:
Diligence
Looking through SEC filed documents for specific information
Researching an admin agency's rules and writing a memo summarizing it.
Reading through long documents and flagging certain info
Blacklining stuff

Pro Bono:
Interviewing a client and asking a bunch of questions so as to fill out a bunch of forms for the client that would help the client clear necessary legal hurdles.

Plus sitting in on meetings/ conference calls related to much of the above. Don't worry too much. Go in with a good attitude, be willing to work moderately hard and learn. Don't treat anyone badly or lie about anything. Be sociable.

BeenDidThat
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Re: Summer Associate Assignments

Postby BeenDidThat » Fri Jan 11, 2013 7:38 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I was wondering if people could share a somewhat detailed description of the kinds of assignments they received during their SAs. I know memos, motions, and briefs seem to be typical, but I was wondering if people could describe, for example, what sort of memo/brief topics they had? How many assignments were you typically juggling at once? How much time were you usually given (did you feel like it was enough)? What types of motions are typical to work on? What was the hardest assignment you received? Etc., whatever you feel willing and interested to share.

Thanks very much in advance. This will do wonders for my nerves and give me a sense of what I'm preparing for when I'm working on my research and writing skills this semester.


Did lit in a big firm. My work consisted of the following:

1) A few formal memos on legal questions partners couldn't find an easy answer to (hint: because there wasn't one). Key to these is showing your work by citing to related cases/secondary materials. Edit like a motherfucker so it's nice and pretty. Don't be afraid to ask associates with whom you have good rapport to take a look at it before you give it to the partner.

2) A few MSJs or portions of an MSJ. Again, this is formal work so edit like a motherfucker. Cite as if you were going to file it with the court (i.e. properly & abundantly).

3) A few case hunts where the partner remembers such-and-such a case. You may or may not find it. Keep track of what you find, but don't be surprised if you have to hunt forever to find it.

4) A number of informal answers to simpler legal questions than those found in the formal memos. Often a partner knows the law well but doesn't want to take the time to find the 4 cases supporting the client's position. These are the easiest, in my mind, and also one of the best ways to impress a partner. If you can find solid statutory and case law reinforcing the partner's thinking, the partner will really appreciate it.

One of the best gauges for how you're doing is if, after you turn something in, a partner comes back to you to ask you to do something else on a matter unrelated to that which you did previous work on. That means the partner thinks you add value. And adding value is what you're going to be paid to do as an associate.

Not going to get into the specific legal questions here.

I generally had more than enough time to do what I needed to do. I usually had 4-5 projects going on at once (in large part because I asked for them; I get bored easily if I'm working on one topic all day). I found the formal memos to be the most difficult because answering questions that have no concrete answer requires showing why you think what you do every step of the way. While the partners/senior associates generally suspect that you have good judgment, they can't just go saying "oh, my SA has good judgment and I'm just relying on it in answering your question, Mr. Client." Instead, you have to find authority supporting your ideas. In descending order, from strongest to least strong, authority generally went like: (1) binding precedent; (2) persuasive precedent in nearby/similar jdx; (3) persuasive precedent from anywhere; (4) practice guides; (5) respected prof's articles/books; (6) other secondary materials. Don't forget to search your firms intranet to see if anybody else has written on the topic. Stumbling upon a senior associate's written thoughts on a similar issue is like realizing you're at the end of the rainbow when you coulda sworn rainbows don't have ends.

Hope some of this helps. Can't speak on transactional work.

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Re: Summer Associate Assignments

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jan 12, 2013 2:42 am

Thank you so much for the responses, all. It really is comforting and helpful.

@BeenDidThat.. I'm surprised you were given responsibility to write up a MSJ. I've only seen about two MSJs in my life, but both had massive attachments, with near 100 pages of depositions and things of the sort. I feel like I would have gone insane, poring over the depositions and other attachments, doing the legal research, and seeing how all of the materials could be best argued to foreclose any dispute of the case. It just seems like so much to do. How long would you have typically been given to do something like a MSJ?

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Re: Summer Associate Assignments

Postby BeenDidThat » Sat Jan 12, 2013 1:00 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Thank you so much for the responses, all. It really is comforting and helpful.

@BeenDidThat.. I'm surprised you were given responsibility to write up a MSJ. I've only seen about two MSJs in my life, but both had massive attachments, with near 100 pages of depositions and things of the sort. I feel like I would have gone insane, poring over the depositions and other attachments, doing the legal research, and seeing how all of the materials could be best argued to foreclose any dispute of the case. It just seems like so much to do. How long would you have typically been given to do something like a MSJ?


There wasn't a ton of legwork to be done. They were relatively clear-cut legal issues with little fact involvement. Believe it or not, opposing parties sometimes take ridiculous legal positions. Had a week or so, & I only took, say, 8 hrs of work.

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Re: Summer Associate Assignments

Postby bdubs » Sat Jan 12, 2013 1:30 pm

Beendidthat has a really good summary of the type of work that I did as well.

I would add that a lot of the hunts for a case or an argument required some creativity. I would have people come to me and explain the point that they were trying to make and ask me to find support for it. The points usually seemed perfectly valid on their face, but finding precedent in closely related cases was usually impossible. That meant thinking through all of the related areas of law where similar questions might come up, or trying to develop combinations of phrases and words that would turn up relevant search results. It' s a much more difficult research assignment than your legal writing class or journal note probably was.

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Skye
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Re: Summer Associate Assignments

Postby Skye » Sun Jan 13, 2013 4:27 am

Wholigan wrote:Litigation:
Reading deposition transcripts and writing a summary
Researching a discrete point of law and writing a memo with the answer
Editing an appellate brief and checking for bluebook correctness, grammar, etc.

Background: My SA firm focuses on litigation. Their compensation is BigLaw-ish but in TLS terms not truly BL because the firm only has 40 attorneys and only recruited 3 SAs. They are working on a number of highly publicized cases (some +$100M).

How might SA work be different here compared to a firm with a couple hundred attorneys that typically recruits 20 or so SAs?

I was advised that I would be working with partners (as they put it, because of their size “flying under the radar,” not an option). So I am assuming that I will get to (in some form/fashion) work on some of these meaty cases. Thoughts?

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Re: Summer Associate Assignments

Postby bdubs » Sun Jan 13, 2013 12:34 pm

Skye wrote:
Wholigan wrote:Litigation:
Reading deposition transcripts and writing a summary
Researching a discrete point of law and writing a memo with the answer
Editing an appellate brief and checking for bluebook correctness, grammar, etc.

Background: My SA firm focuses on litigation. Their compensation is BigLaw-ish but in TLS terms not truly BL because the firm only has 40 attorneys and only recruited 3 SAs. They are working on a number of highly publicized cases (some +$100M).

How might SA work be different here compared to a firm with a couple hundred attorneys that typically recruits 20 or so SAs?

I was advised that I would be working with partners (as they put it, because of their size “flying under the radar,” not an option). So I am assuming that I will get to (in some form/fashion) work on some of these meaty cases. Thoughts?


I worked at a similar firm my 1L summer. If your experience is like mine then you can expect to be asked to take the first crack at drafting a few motions (discovery, procedural, etc..) and substantial sections of dispositive motions (MTD, MSJ, etc..). You should expect your work to be relied on more heavily than what most SAs at bigger firms produce so it needs to be more thorough and polished. Try to get as much feedback as you can going through the process of writing your first few motions, that way you won't go too far off course.

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Skye
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Re: Summer Associate Assignments

Postby Skye » Mon Jan 14, 2013 3:53 pm

Thank you, your reply was very helpful! Couple of quickies. In a boutique sized firm, I imagine the nightly social obligations are less demanding (I was told it varies... whatever that means). Did you lateral out into traditional BL or did you prefer the smaller environment? Thanks.

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Re: Summer Associate Assignments

Postby somewhatwayward » Mon Jan 14, 2013 4:18 pm

What is way more important than the content of the assignment is how you communicate with the associates and partners about it. Generally the attorneys don't seem to expect summers to do a perfect job substantively (although there are sometimes nightmare attorneys)....or sometimes they give you work that is super hard not even expecting you to find an answer. The key is to keep the attorneys updated with your progress (if you realize you can't meet a deadline, let the attorneys know right away) and to ask questions to clarify things; the attorneys usually won't provide you with enough information because they are busy and because, as relatively more experienced people, it is hard for them to realize what you don't know - they will assume you know things they know since it is hard for them to imagine what it is like to be inexperienced. Don't spin your wheels when something is unclear because you are afraid to ask (although if it is something really basic, try asking your associate mentor first).

Collect your questions together and ask them at one time. Don't bother them over and over. Also, I recommend going to see them in person or calling on the phone to ask your questions rather than emailing. I had a bad experience last summer where I sent a question over email and the person said what I was planning to do was fine and then he was upset when he saw the final product. I assume that what I was assigned to do wasn't his top priority so he didn't read my email very carefully and just said 'yes' to my question. That's when I learned it is way better to ask in person. I recommend emailing or calling to say you have a few questions and ask what would be a good time to come by. That way you don't go knocking on their door when they are on a call or really busy.

Firms know that you don't know a lot about the law yet and you lack legal skills. But they expect you to have other skills: interpersonal skills (not just the ability to socialize but the ability to work with other people on a team), communication skills, time management skills, etc. Lacking those things is what can get you no-offered. (Of course, extrinsic factors like the economy can get you no-offered, too, but you don't have much control over that.)

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Re: Summer Associate Assignments

Postby nygrrrl » Mon Jan 14, 2013 4:26 pm

Just a word of thanks to all who've posted here so far - this is really useful information that will help many people! Thank you!

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Re: Summer Associate Assignments

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 14, 2013 4:34 pm

bdubs wrote:
Skye wrote:
Wholigan wrote:Litigation:
Reading deposition transcripts and writing a summary
Researching a discrete point of law and writing a memo with the answer
Editing an appellate brief and checking for bluebook correctness, grammar, etc.

Background: My SA firm focuses on litigation. Their compensation is BigLaw-ish but in TLS terms not truly BL because the firm only has 40 attorneys and only recruited 3 SAs. They are working on a number of highly publicized cases (some +$100M).

How might SA work be different here compared to a firm with a couple hundred attorneys that typically recruits 20 or so SAs?

I was advised that I would be working with partners (as they put it, because of their size “flying under the radar,” not an option). So I am assuming that I will get to (in some form/fashion) work on some of these meaty cases. Thoughts?


I worked at a similar firm my 1L summer. If your experience is like mine then you can expect to be asked to take the first crack at drafting a few motions (discovery, procedural, etc..) and substantial sections of dispositive motions (MTD, MSJ, etc..). You should expect your work to be relied on more heavily than what most SAs at bigger firms produce so it needs to be more thorough and polished. Try to get as much feedback as you can going through the process of writing your first few motions, that way you won't go too far off course.


what's the likelihood of getting an offer as a 1L summer in said places?

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Re: Summer Associate Assignments

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 14, 2013 5:16 pm

OP here and just wanted to thank everyone who has responded. I've felt especially thankful that many of you have given really detailed answers. Like NYgrrl said, this has been super helpful and cleared up a lot of nagging curiosities.

I frequently hear the advice of keeping attorneys up to date on your progress (thanks a lot for your detailed comments on this subject, wayward). I certainly understand notifying someone about something like an inability to meet a deadline, but I was wondering what sort of rules of thumb any of you employed to otherwise know when to notify your assigning attorney about where you were on a project. For example, I read one thing that said you should let the assigning attorney know where you are on a project several hours after it was assigned, but this seems a little ridiculous to me. So, when would you decide to give updates? When you were half way through a project? Every quarter of the time until the deadline? Etc.

Thanks again, everyone.

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Re: Summer Associate Assignments

Postby bdubs » Mon Jan 14, 2013 5:23 pm

Skye wrote:Thank you, your reply was very helpful! Couple of quickies. In a boutique sized firm, I imagine the nightly social obligations are less demanding (I was told it varies... whatever that means). Did you lateral out into traditional BL or did you prefer the smaller environment? Thanks.


I was just an SA for my 1L year and will be doing a BL SA my 2L year with a shortened return at the end of the summer to evaluate my full-time options. That said, most of the associates were laterals from BL who had transitioned out. They all told me they preferred the boutique to the big firms, which I took with a grain of salt, but a relatively senior associate at a BL firm told me that this particular boutique was "the good life," relative to BL.

Social obligations were certainly reduced from BL. Since there were only a handful of SAs they worked around our availability and interest when planning events. There were still lunches, dinners, outings, etc... but it didn't feel forced.

Anonymous User wrote:what's the likelihood of getting an offer as a 1L summer in said places?


Too varied to comment with much specificity. If the firm is highly selective in their SA offers, however, I think they are very likely to offer full-time employment. Being able to attract top students is dependent on having a strong reputation as a sought after place to work, you kind of lose that when you no offer a well-qualified person.

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Re: Summer Associate Assignments

Postby bdubs » Mon Jan 14, 2013 5:30 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP here and just wanted to thank everyone who has responded. I've felt especially thankful that many of you have given really detailed answers. Like NYgrrl said, this has been super helpful and cleared up a lot of nagging curiosities.

I frequently hear the advice of keeping attorneys up to date on your progress (thanks a lot for your detailed comments on this subject, wayward). I certainly understand notifying someone about something like an inability to meet a deadline, but I was wondering what sort of rules of thumb any of you employed to otherwise know when to notify your assigning attorney about where you were on a project. For example, I read one thing that said you should let the assigning attorney know where you are on a project several hours after it was assigned, but this seems a little ridiculous to me. So, when would you decide to give updates? When you were half way through a project? Every quarter of the time until the deadline? Etc.

Thanks again, everyone.


It's usually appropriate to give end-of-day updates on projects. The update length should probably reflect the importance and amount of work you've done. If you didn't get around to it because of another project then one or two sentences is OK ("I didn't make much progress on X today because I was busy working on Y"). If you worked on it all day then it might be appropriate to summarize in a short paragraph or with a bullet point list. Some attorneys will let you know that they don't care and then you can stop, otherwise keep up a daily update.

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Re: Summer Associate Assignments

Postby ph14 » Mon Jan 14, 2013 5:31 pm

bdubs wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:OP here and just wanted to thank everyone who has responded. I've felt especially thankful that many of you have given really detailed answers. Like NYgrrl said, this has been super helpful and cleared up a lot of nagging curiosities.

I frequently hear the advice of keeping attorneys up to date on your progress (thanks a lot for your detailed comments on this subject, wayward). I certainly understand notifying someone about something like an inability to meet a deadline, but I was wondering what sort of rules of thumb any of you employed to otherwise know when to notify your assigning attorney about where you were on a project. For example, I read one thing that said you should let the assigning attorney know where you are on a project several hours after it was assigned, but this seems a little ridiculous to me. So, when would you decide to give updates? When you were half way through a project? Every quarter of the time until the deadline? Etc.

Thanks again, everyone.


It's usually appropriate to give end-of-day updates on projects. The update length should probably reflect the importance and amount of work you've done. If you didn't get around to it because of another project then one or two sentences is OK ("I didn't make much progress on X today because I was busy working on Y"). If you worked on it all day then it might be appropriate to summarize in a short paragraph or with a bullet point list. Some attorneys will let you know that they don't care and then you can stop, otherwise keep up a daily update.


End of day updates on projects seems too frequent to me, unless this is an assignment that is supposed to be done in a couple of days. For big projects, I would send an update every once in a while, mainly if I was kind of stuck on something and wanted to ask a question as well.

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Re: Summer Associate Assignments

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Mon Jan 14, 2013 5:44 pm

Yeah, I think the frequency of updates depends on how long they expect the assignment to take you (which is something you should ask when you get the assignment, although someone's probably mentioned that). If you get it on Monday/Tues and they want it "sometime next week," maybe update on Friday before you leave (or Friday morning so they can update if necessary before the weekend)? Something like that. The exception would be (as I think someone's already said) to talk to someone as soon as you think you're going to have problems making the deadline). You could also ask the person assigning the project how often they like updates.

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Re: Summer Associate Assignments

Postby TooOld4This » Mon Jan 14, 2013 6:48 pm

bdubs wrote:
It's usually appropriate to give end-of-day updates on projects. The update length should probably reflect the importance and amount of work you've done. If you didn't get around to it because of another project then one or two sentences is OK ("I didn't make much progress on X today because I was busy working on Y"). If you worked on it all day then it might be appropriate to summarize in a short paragraph or with a bullet point list. Some attorneys will let you know that they don't care and then you can stop, otherwise keep up a daily update.


No, it's not usually appropriate to do daily updates. I suppose you could have an assigning attorney or a particular firm for whom this is the norm, but generally that is way too often unless you are told to do it.

When you get an assignment, figure out what the deliverable is. Specifically ask this question in the meeting. You need to know if they want to have a conversation, an email, a memo, a draft motion, examples of contract provisions, etc.

The next question is when they need it by. Ask if it is ok for you to come back with questions as you get into the project. The answer will almost always be yes, but this sets you up to figure out how and when to communicate on progress.

You should check in at decision points, not just for the sake of checking in. If a topic seems to be more complicated, flag that issue and ask if the assigning attorney would like to see an outline of the issues you've found. If you've hit a dead end, briefly explain the approach you've taken to research and ask if the have further ideas or if you should pursue a slightly different path (and here you should hopefully be able to fill in an idea -- "while I haven't found anything on point for X, I have noticed that Y seems like another avenue, would you like me to pursue it?")

You need to find the balance between having your supervisor feeling like they are babysitting you and disappearing into a black hole only to appear with work product that only vaguely looks as that person expected it would.

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Re: Summer Associate Assignments

Postby bdubs » Mon Jan 14, 2013 7:55 pm

bdubs wrote:The update length should probably reflect the importance and amount of work you've done.


This was the key part of my advice. If you have a project that is multiple weeks then the appropriate length of the update should reflect where you're at in the process. If you spent all day doing preliminary research I would write a one sentence update saying "I was able to dedicate my day to researching X and made significant progress. See you tomorrow." If you feel like you came to a point where you're ready to start writing after finishing preliminary research though I would write something more significant like "I finished my preliminary research and found 1) X 2) Y and 3) Z were the most relevant points. I am going to begin drafting tomorrow starting with X."

I don't think brief updates like this make anyone feel like they're babysitting. After having worked as a manager in a professional setting it's nice to where your employees are at a high level. I would be surprised if this annoyed anyone and would guess that many would be pleasantly surprised by your being "on top" of managing yourself. It's easier to know where things are at and not have to proactively go ask.

Also remember that as an SA you are starting from square one and don't have a regular working relationship where someone can naturally trust you to be managing your workload effectively based on prior experience.

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Re: Summer Associate Assignments

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 14, 2013 7:58 pm

somewhatwayward wrote:What is way more important than the content of the assignment is how you communicate with the associates and partners about it. Generally the attorneys don't seem to expect summers to do a perfect job substantively (although there are sometimes nightmare attorneys)....or sometimes they give you work that is super hard not even expecting you to find an answer. The key is to keep the attorneys updated with your progress (if you realize you can't meet a deadline, let the attorneys know right away) and to ask questions to clarify things; the attorneys usually won't provide you with enough information because they are busy and because, as relatively more experienced people, it is hard for them to realize what you don't know - they will assume you know things they know since it is hard for them to imagine what it is like to be inexperienced. Don't spin your wheels when something is unclear because you are afraid to ask (although if it is something really basic, try asking your associate mentor first).

Take it from someone who was no-offered for these very reasons: read this, learn this, love this ^^^.

TooOld4This
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Re: Summer Associate Assignments

Postby TooOld4This » Mon Jan 14, 2013 8:57 pm

bdubs wrote:
bdubs wrote:The update length should probably reflect the importance and amount of work you've done.


This was the key part of my advice. If you have a project that is multiple weeks then the appropriate length of the update should reflect where you're at in the process. If you spent all day doing preliminary research I would write a one sentence update saying "I was able to dedicate my day to researching X and made significant progress. See you tomorrow." If you feel like you came to a point where you're ready to start writing after finishing preliminary research though I would write something more significant like "I finished my preliminary research and found 1) X 2) Y and 3) Z were the most relevant points. I am going to begin drafting tomorrow starting with X."

I don't think brief updates like this make anyone feel like they're babysitting. After having worked as a manager in a professional setting it's nice to where your employees are at a high level. I would be surprised if this annoyed anyone and would guess that many would be pleasantly surprised by your being "on top" of managing yourself. It's easier to know where things are at and not have to proactively go ask.

Also remember that as an SA you are starting from square one and don't have a regular working relationship where someone can naturally trust you to be managing your workload effectively based on prior experience.


There may be attorneys out there that appreciate your approach. I don't know any myself (BigLaw -- small firm where there is a lot more casual work discussion might be different) and the updates you are describing would make me feel like your babysitter. I assumed that SAs working for me were professionals and could manage their workflow. Part of that job skill is knowing what needs to be escalated and what does not. A daily update saying "hey I didn't get to your project today" (when that fact isn't part of you telling me that the deadline is slipping) isn't helpful and would have diverted my attention from projects I needed to get done. Giving me the blow by blow that you are getting ready to start writing is also not a communication that will give me any useful information. I probably wouldn't hold the daily updates against you. But they would go into the category of "quirk" and not into "positive."

If you have a question, please ask. If you are getting slammed with another project and having trouble juggling, please let me know. If something becomes unclear and you are at a fork in the road, seek guidance. Most attorneys are happy to spend a few minutes with you on the phone, answer an email, or even meet again. But coming up with updates everyday hides the ball (are you just updating me, or is there a question here?) and wastes my time. Loop me in as the context demands-- that could be hourly on some projects or not for days.

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Re: Summer Associate Assignments

Postby bdubs » Mon Jan 14, 2013 9:53 pm

TooOld4This wrote:There may be attorneys out there that appreciate your approach. I don't know any myself (BigLaw -- small firm where there is a lot more casual work discussion might be different) and the updates you are describing would make me feel like your babysitter.


Two different experiences I guess. I've noticed that attorneys in general tend to be somewhat more independent and seem to interact with their coworkers informally less than in other job environments. I may be biased against that by having worked in a consulting firm where informal communication was the norm and most of the work was done in teams.

I have trouble imagining someone getting no-offered because the associate contact was slightly annoyed that they received too many e-mail updates. I could see how seeking constant approval and needing your hand held could result in a no-offer. But I don't see a "here is what I'm doing" update message as seeking approval or lacking independence. I can definitely see someone getting no offered because they communicated too little, too late (see above).




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