Cavalier wrote:Assuming this is big law, you probably have nothing to worry about as long as you follow at least two of these three rules:
1) Do what you're told. The substance of your assignments probably won't matter much, but if you research the wrong issue, examine the wrong jurisdiction, etc., it'll be obvious that you screwed up.
2) Don't miss deadlines. Ever. None of your assignments are likely to be time sensitive, but if something is due soon, you must do whatever it takes to complete it on time.
3) Don't be too socially awkward. The bar isn't very high, but puking, making sexist jokes, or insulting a partner's second-tier law school to his face (this actually happened) should be avoided.
Seriously, most of the no-offers I've heard about have involved some combination of the above--it takes a lot to get no-offered. Just to be safe, anytime you get an assignment, make sure you are absolutely certain what you're to do, and then make sure you know (a) what jurisdiction it's in, (b) what the assigning attorney expects (an email, a memo, etc.), and (c) if the assigning attorney suggests a page range, whether that's single or double spaced. And before you turn in any assignment or send any email, proofread it multiple times. It's not uncommon for firms to make a binder of every summer associate's assignments for the hiring committee to review. They're not going to know whether you neglected to cite Judge Posner's dissent in your analysis of predatory pricing in the Seventh Circuit, but they will certainly see typos.
To expand on this:
With respect to (2) handing stuff in on time, if you realize during an assignment that you cannot complete it on time (for a good reason), make sure you tell the assigning lawyer as soon as possible. Deadlines can usually be moved, but missing a deadline is among the worst things you can do.
One mistake a lot of SAs make is to do everything on their own. Many big law firms have hordes of administrative staff that are much better than you at making binders, using the faxes, filling out expense forms, etc. As far as the firm is concerned time spent doing that stuff is time they can't bill to clients. (Most SA time is never billed to clients; the point is to show that you will be a capable associate in a year.) As far as proofreading, I am a terrible proofreader of my own work, so I always had someone else proofread everything
I worked on, short of an informal email. I made my administrative assistant (or, if it was a big document, the proofreading department) proofread and format every document to make sure it corresponded to the office standard.
Also, if you are asked your opinion, state it. You were hired to add value, not to be an automaton. Many times you will be the best informed on the particular issue you researched, and your opinion may be valuable. If someone more senior than you disagree, shut your trap and do what they say—don't argue! But if you are asked, don't say "I don't know" (or at least give reasons for why you don't know, if, say, the client didn't give enough information). No client wants to hear it, so if that's your informed opinion, you've just created work for someone else who has to develop one.