Advice for Being a Useful/Valuable Junior Associate?

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.
User avatar
AVBucks4239
Posts: 870
Joined: Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:37 pm

Advice for Being a Useful/Valuable Junior Associate?

Postby AVBucks4239 » Tue Mar 03, 2015 11:26 am

I know this is a pretty gunnerish question, but I'm really enjoying working at my small firm (~25 lawyers) in a very small market (>100,000 population) thus far and want to really start making strides.

With that said, I've been here for about 6-7 months so far, and like most new lawyers, I feel pretty incompetent on a daily basis.

I know I can't entirely eliminate this, so instead, I'm looking for advice on how to use organizational/logistical skills to make my partners value me as an associate.

For instance, in the past couple weeks, I've really started to anticipate my partner's needs instead of waiting for them to give me an assignment. The most recent example was that I knew I was attending discovery in a wrongful termination case this upcoming Friday. Instead of waiting for my partner to tell me to prepare the exhibits (which I knew he would, as I've been working on this file since September), I prepared the exhibits, redacted personal information, and got them all organized way before the deposition.

This was an assignment I already had to do, but it impressed the partner that I did it ahead of time and without him asking. It was one of the few times I got a "great job" reply from a partner.

Thus, I'm looking for more advice on doing things like this. What can I be doing to make myself a better young lawyer?

So far I've gathered the following:

(1) Do perfect work;
(2) Turn everything in on time;
(3) Under-promise and over-deliver (e.g., ask for a Friday deadline when you know you can get it by Wednesday);
(4) Anticipate partner's needs;
(5) Check the dockets for any case I've worked on?
(6) Attend more social events?

Anything else? I'm hoping to get a good mix of reviews from people 2-3 years in practice, as well as some of the partners that frequent this forum as well.

gaddockteeg
Posts: 193
Joined: Fri Feb 07, 2014 5:33 pm

Re: Advice for Being a Useful/Valuable Junior Associate?

Postby gaddockteeg » Tue Mar 03, 2015 2:14 pm

No advice here. Current 3L. Just wanted to say thanks, this is useful to me

kykiske
Posts: 249
Joined: Sun Mar 10, 2013 7:12 pm

Re: Advice for Being a Useful/Valuable Junior Associate?

Postby kykiske » Tue Mar 03, 2015 2:59 pm

I'm interested too. Still a clerk though.

I also strive to do perfect work, but I still manage to fuck up. The partners/associates I work under constantly tell me my work is good, and give me more work.

Doesn't prevent me from feeling like an incompetent burden.

User avatar
JohannDeMann
Posts: 13831
Joined: Wed Mar 12, 2014 4:25 pm

Re: Advice for Being a Useful/Valuable Junior Associate?

Postby JohannDeMann » Tue Mar 03, 2015 3:13 pm

you probably need to stop being such perfectionists. try hard and do your best. don't take anything personal. mistakes will be made - it's part of learning.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273254
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Advice for Being a Useful/Valuable Junior Associate?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 03, 2015 3:21 pm

Never leave your office without a notepad and a writing implement.
Forward your office phone to your cell phone when you are out of the office - at least until there is someone more junior than you.
Walk past your main assignment feeder's office before leaving every day to make sure (s)he did not get swamped with something last minute and just hasn't had a chance to bring you in.
Monitor the Federal Register, relevant Case Law, industry bulletins, etc. for information that may be of interest to current clients and share a brief summary with superiors unprompted.
Study, study, study, study, study and ask questions.

smallfirmassociate
Posts: 386
Joined: Mon Jan 13, 2014 5:47 pm

Re: Advice for Being a Useful/Valuable Junior Associate?

Postby smallfirmassociate » Tue Mar 03, 2015 3:25 pm

I'd add (7) Maintain a demeanor that shows you can practice law for decades.

In other words, stay professional. Chill out. Do good work. Relax. Make deadlines. Breathe. Pace yourself. Don't live and die by every little assignment, every motion, every deposition, or whatever. Don't be overeager and annoying. Show the type of control and bearing that you'll need in front of clients, judges, and juries.

You don't need constant feedback. Just do what you're supposed to do, act like you belong, and everything else will fall into place. It takes time for the incompetent feeling to go away, but it will.

Well, except for some people...

dixiecupdrinking
Posts: 3139
Joined: Sun Oct 26, 2008 2:39 pm

Re: Advice for Being a Useful/Valuable Junior Associate?

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Wed Mar 04, 2015 9:37 am

Ask questions early when you don't understand something. I struggle with this, but it's better to take ten minutes of someone's time with a potentially dumb question than it is to spin your wheels for days and then turn in work product that misses the mark.

User avatar
AlanShore
Posts: 1505
Joined: Wed Jul 02, 2008 4:21 pm

Re: Advice for Being a Useful/Valuable Junior Associate?

Postby AlanShore » Wed Mar 04, 2015 10:26 am

Don't mean to hijack the thread but any corporate associate - specific advice would be helpful too

johnB86
Posts: 54
Joined: Tue Apr 19, 2011 9:33 pm

Re: Advice for Being a Useful/Valuable Junior Associate?

Postby johnB86 » Wed Mar 04, 2015 10:59 am

AlanShore wrote:Don't mean to hijack the thread but any corporate associate - specific advice would be helpful too


Junior associate value adds in corporate are often about organization. If you can pull up a certain draft "right now" when the partner needs it or otherwise keep a flurry of hundreds of documents organized you'll be appreciated. Particularly in deals that are tight turnarounds with a handful of parties and partners commenting on documents. Here is something I do that has been really helpful.

Email:

I create a folder for every new matter:

>Project Zeus

Then I create a subfolder for delivered documents (emails with attachments (both received and sent)) are filed here. If it has an attachment, it goes in this folder.

1. Project Zeus
1.1 Delivered Documents

Then I create a subfolder for signature pages only (towards the end of the deal) where pdf copies of signature pages are filed. Signature pages can be a fucking nightmare if, for example, it is a syndicate finance deal and each of 10 banks wants an original signature page to the various finance documents which documents have 10 signatories (quickly turns into hundreds of signature pages).

1. Project Zeus
1.1 Delivered Documents
1.2 Signature Pages

Break out these folders however you want. I once worked a deal with 7 different local counsels spread across different time zones. To stay organized I created a subfolder system for each of the local counsel. It can be tedious to sort emails...but its better than scrambling to find something from Panamanian counsel at 2:30 AM in a sea of thousands of emails.



File Management:

I also make sure that I keep a folder (on a shared drive) for each new matter and track every single draft/comments of each document for the entire deal. The folder-subfolder structure might look something like the following:

>Project Zeus

1. Credit Agreement
1.1 Law firm X draft received 28_Feb_15 3:23 PM
1.2 My law firm's comments circulated 2_Mar_15 9:33 AM
1.3 Form final version received 4_Mar_15 9:25 AM

2. Security Agreement
2.1 Law firm X draft received 24_Feb_15 4:55 PM
2.2 My law firm's comments circulated 26_Feb_15 1230 PM

And so on...for every document. This is really useful when the partner says "hey, where are we on the security agreement?" Instead of sifting through hundreds of emails you can respond, "oh, we got our comments out at 1230 on the 26th, ball is in their court...I can ping them for a revised draft." At the end of the deal I create a subfolder titled "@Execution Copies" or something similar and put all executed documents in that folder. The @ sign just ensures that this subfolder is at the top of the alphabetically ordered main project folder. So the file system looks like this at the end (with all document subfolders under the @execution copies subfolder).

>Project Zeus

>@Execution Copies
All executed documents here.

1. Credit Agreement
1.1 Law firm X draft received 28_Feb_15 3:23 PM
1.2 My law firm's comments circulated 2_Mar_15 9:33 AM
1.3 Form final version received 4_Mar_15 9:25 AM

2. Security Agreement
2.1 Law firm X draft received 24_Feb_15 4:55 PM
2.2 My law firm's comments circulated 26_Feb_15 1230 PM


Checklist:

This is similar to the above...create a closing checklist and update it in real time to the extent possible. On busy deals, its often helpful to circulate a fully updated closing checklist every other day or so to give everyone a lay of the land and subtly say to the other side "hey, still waiting on x, y and z from you guys".

Working Group List:

Do this for your own sanity and your team's sanity. Create a document for each deal that lists who the parties are, their titles and departments and their contact info. List parties on separate pages.

i.e.

Page 1: Our client and their contact information. All points of contact organized by seniority first and then alphabetically.

Page 2: Out client's counsel (i.e. us). Again ordered by seniority and then alphabetically.

Page 3: Other side

Page 4: Other side's counsel.

This will help you when the partner says "set up a lawyer's call for the next fifteen minutes." Instead of sifting through emails to make sure you copy everyone at your firm and the other side's firm, you go to your working group list and copy the emails from pages 2 and 4. boom.

Its also nice to circulate this to all parties so keep that in mind when creating it (i.e. it will likely be shared so no unflattering nick names for the other side).

Of course you're doing these things while also commenting on documents yourself, turning changes, participating in phone calls, etc. Those more substantive tasks are where you're expected to learn---not make super valuable contributions...so make value adds on the easy stuff like organization. You'd be surprised just how appreciated it is.

Hope that helps...I am a junior myself, but have had good results with this system.

User avatar
AlanShore
Posts: 1505
Joined: Wed Jul 02, 2008 4:21 pm

Re: Advice for Being a Useful/Valuable Junior Associate?

Postby AlanShore » Wed Mar 04, 2015 1:43 pm

^^ JohnB86, thanks a lot. This was super helpful.

KM2016
Posts: 198
Joined: Wed Jul 09, 2014 1:20 am

Re: Advice for Being a Useful/Valuable Junior Associate?

Postby KM2016 » Wed Mar 04, 2015 2:14 pm

johnB86 wrote:
AlanShore wrote:Don't mean to hijack the thread but any corporate associate - specific advice would be helpful too


Junior associate value adds in corporate are often about organization. If you can pull up a certain draft "right now" when the partner needs it or otherwise keep a flurry of hundreds of documents organized you'll be appreciated. Particularly in deals that are tight turnarounds with a handful of parties and partners commenting on documents. Here is something I do that has been really helpful.

Email:

I create a folder for every new matter:

>Project Zeus

Then I create a subfolder for delivered documents (emails with attachments (both received and sent)) are filed here. If it has an attachment, it goes in this folder.

1. Project Zeus
1.1 Delivered Documents

Then I create a subfolder for signature pages only (towards the end of the deal) where pdf copies of signature pages are filed. Signature pages can be a fucking nightmare if, for example, it is a syndicate finance deal and each of 10 banks wants an original signature page to the various finance documents which documents have 10 signatories (quickly turns into hundreds of signature pages).

1. Project Zeus
1.1 Delivered Documents
1.2 Signature Pages

Break out these folders however you want. I once worked a deal with 7 different local counsels spread across different time zones. To stay organized I created a subfolder system for each of the local counsel. It can be tedious to sort emails...but its better than scrambling to find something from Panamanian counsel at 2:30 AM in a sea of thousands of emails.



File Management:

I also make sure that I keep a folder (on a shared drive) for each new matter and track every single draft/comments of each document for the entire deal. The folder-subfolder structure might look something like the following:

>Project Zeus

1. Credit Agreement
1.1 Law firm X draft received 28_Feb_15 3:23 PM
1.2 My law firm's comments circulated 2_Mar_15 9:33 AM
1.3 Form final version received 4_Mar_15 9:25 AM

2. Security Agreement
2.1 Law firm X draft received 24_Feb_15 4:55 PM
2.2 My law firm's comments circulated 26_Feb_15 1230 PM

And so on...for every document. This is really useful when the partner says "hey, where are we on the security agreement?" Instead of sifting through hundreds of emails you can respond, "oh, we got our comments out at 1230 on the 26th, ball is in their court...I can ping them for a revised draft." At the end of the deal I create a subfolder titled "@Execution Copies" or something similar and put all executed documents in that folder. The @ sign just ensures that this subfolder is at the top of the alphabetically ordered main project folder. So the file system looks like this at the end (with all document subfolders under the @execution copies subfolder).

>Project Zeus

>@Execution Copies
All executed documents here.

1. Credit Agreement
1.1 Law firm X draft received 28_Feb_15 3:23 PM
1.2 My law firm's comments circulated 2_Mar_15 9:33 AM
1.3 Form final version received 4_Mar_15 9:25 AM

2. Security Agreement
2.1 Law firm X draft received 24_Feb_15 4:55 PM
2.2 My law firm's comments circulated 26_Feb_15 1230 PM


Checklist:

This is similar to the above...create a closing checklist and update it in real time to the extent possible. On busy deals, its often helpful to circulate a fully updated closing checklist every other day or so to give everyone a lay of the land and subtly say to the other side "hey, still waiting on x, y and z from you guys".

Working Group List:

Do this for your own sanity and your team's sanity. Create a document for each deal that lists who the parties are, their titles and departments and their contact info. List parties on separate pages.

i.e.

Page 1: Our client and their contact information. All points of contact organized by seniority first and then alphabetically.

Page 2: Out client's counsel (i.e. us). Again ordered by seniority and then alphabetically.

Page 3: Other side

Page 4: Other side's counsel.

This will help you when the partner says "set up a lawyer's call for the next fifteen minutes." Instead of sifting through emails to make sure you copy everyone at your firm and the other side's firm, you go to your working group list and copy the emails from pages 2 and 4. boom.

Its also nice to circulate this to all parties so keep that in mind when creating it (i.e. it will likely be shared so no unflattering nick names for the other side).

Of course you're doing these things while also commenting on documents yourself, turning changes, participating in phone calls, etc. Those more substantive tasks are where you're expected to learn---not make super valuable contributions...so make value adds on the easy stuff like organization. You'd be surprised just how appreciated it is.

Hope that helps...I am a junior myself, but have had good results with this system.


You're my new favorite TLS-er. Honestly, thank you.

johnB86
Posts: 54
Joined: Tue Apr 19, 2011 9:33 pm

Re: Advice for Being a Useful/Valuable Junior Associate?

Postby johnB86 » Wed Mar 04, 2015 2:30 pm

KM2016 wrote: You're my new favorite TLS-er. Honestly, thank you.


AlanShore wrote:^^ JohnB86, thanks a lot. This was super helpful.


Glad to help. I am a second year corp. associate so I'm no expert, but will try to add to this and/or answer specific questions over the next few days/as I think of things.

User avatar
AVBucks4239
Posts: 870
Joined: Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:37 pm

Re: Advice for Being a Useful/Valuable Junior Associate?

Postby AVBucks4239 » Wed Mar 04, 2015 3:03 pm

johnB86 wrote:
KM2016 wrote: You're my new favorite TLS-er. Honestly, thank you.


AlanShore wrote:^^ JohnB86, thanks a lot. This was super helpful.


Glad to help. I am a second year corp. associate so I'm no expert, but will try to add to this and/or answer specific questions over the next few days/as I think of things.

Great post that I can hopefully translate to my litigation practice. Unfortunately our document system absolutely sucks so I'll have to figure something out.

sonyvaio18
Posts: 81
Joined: Wed Jul 03, 2013 8:35 am

Re: Advice for Being a Useful/Valuable Junior Associate?

Postby sonyvaio18 » Wed Jun 10, 2015 5:53 pm

Bump. Especially interested in transactional perspectives.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273254
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Advice for Being a Useful/Valuable Junior Associate?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 10, 2015 11:27 pm

AVBucks4239 wrote:
johnB86 wrote:
KM2016 wrote: You're my new favorite TLS-er. Honestly, thank you.


AlanShore wrote:^^ JohnB86, thanks a lot. This was super helpful.


Glad to help. I am a second year corp. associate so I'm no expert, but will try to add to this and/or answer specific questions over the next few days/as I think of things.

Great post that I can hopefully translate to my litigation practice. Unfortunately our document system absolutely sucks so I'll have to figure something out.


I'm a lit associate who gets dinged constantly by senior people for not organizing files properly, because for them to go back through emails takes a small amount of time and energy which adds up over the course of a day or a case. Every stage of the case should get a file and the docs/emails need to be renamed so that senior people know what they refer to (an email called re:re: is not helpful). For example:

1. Pre-Action
1.1 Client Correspondence
1.2 Opposing Counsel Correspondence
1.3 Legal Research
1.3.a. Breach of K
1.3.b. Breach of Fiduciary Duty
2. Motion to Dismiss
2.1 Drafts
2.2 Breach of K
2.3 Breach of Fiduciary Duty
2.4 Filings (put exhibits in here too)

Whenever you file something create a separate folder just for whatever you are filing. Also, pull every single case anyone cites in anything and put them in folders organized by issue - senior people hate logging onto Wexis just to pull a case and it saves the client money. It saves you time too if a partner emails you and asks "why aren't we saying anything about Irrelevant v. Pointless on page 12 of their brief" you can go right to the case and include it in your email to the partner.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273254
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Advice for Being a Useful/Valuable Junior Associate?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jun 11, 2015 10:07 am

Antitrust (primarily litigation) associate here. In general junior associates can be valuable by mastering the facts of the cases they're on, identifying what needs to be done (and then doing it if it's an appropriate task for them) rather than waiting to be told what to do, and being an expert at particular things that a lot of lawyers are clueless about, like e-discovery and Excel. It's helpful to think about it from the perspective of a partner who brings in a new matter: why should they want to staff you, as opposed to some other junior associate, on the matter? What do you bring to the table? Successful partners have more on their plate than they can handle, so they need people who can get things done correctly with minimal supervision, who know everything that's going on in the case so that the partner doesn't have to, and who can move things forward by identifying the next tasks that should be done.

CanadianWolf
Posts: 10439
Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 4:54 pm

Re: Advice for Being a Useful/Valuable Junior Associate?

Postby CanadianWolf » Thu Jun 11, 2015 11:57 am

Get your work done on time.

desertlaw
Posts: 679
Joined: Thu Oct 22, 2009 3:03 pm

Re: Advice for Being a Useful/Valuable Junior Associate?

Postby desertlaw » Thu Jun 11, 2015 4:32 pm

Biglaw gets paid the high rates based on a combination of 2 factors: Capability and Availability.

You can be valuable by being available and capable. Your capabilities as a junior are virtually none, other than: attention to detail, being organized (every matter should have at least 4-5 sub folders) and having good attitude/wanting to improve or learn. Being available, you can do that pretty well just by always being responsive and ready to help.

The more you're around and gain skills, the less the "availability" is important and you can block out time/weekends/vacations if you do good work and do it on time. Sure, partners sometimes have to answer questions ASAP but for the most part, they are paid for being capable and their knowledge and can make their schedules more so than a junior associate with no knowledge.

The e-mail organization is super helpful and saving e-mails correctly will save you a ton of time down the road.

sonyvaio18
Posts: 81
Joined: Wed Jul 03, 2013 8:35 am

Re: Advice for Being a Useful/Valuable Junior Associate?

Postby sonyvaio18 » Thu Jun 11, 2015 6:26 pm

thanks all, this is really wonderful. keep it coming.

User avatar
crazycanuck
Posts: 3041
Joined: Wed Feb 18, 2009 4:04 pm

Re: Advice for Being a Useful/Valuable Junior Associate?

Postby crazycanuck » Thu Jun 11, 2015 6:44 pm

When you have a meeting, run it efficiently. Have an agenda with clearly defined objectives. Stick to the agenda. Only invite people who have to be there. Take notes and follow up on the notes and action plans. Poorly run meetings with no agenda will get people pissed about wasting time. A well run meeting will make people think you are a rock star.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273254
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Advice for Being a Useful/Valuable Junior Associate?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jun 12, 2015 7:41 am

Anonymous User wrote:Antitrust (primarily litigation) associate here. In general junior associates can be valuable by mastering the facts of the cases they're on, identifying what needs to be done (and then doing it if it's an appropriate task for them) rather than waiting to be told what to do, and being an expert at particular things that a lot of lawyers are clueless about, like e-discovery and Excel. It's helpful to think about it from the perspective of a partner who brings in a new matter: why should they want to staff you, as opposed to some other junior associate, on the matter? What do you bring to the table? Successful partners have more on their plate than they can handle, so they need people who can get things done correctly with minimal supervision, who know everything that's going on in the case so that the partner doesn't have to, and who can move things forward by identifying the next tasks that should be done.

Another antitrust litigation associate here. This is excellent advice. And make sure you review things numerous times to make sure they're correct before you give them to the partner - they would really like it if they could trust you enough to tell you to just draft and file things without having to look at them first, but it's not going to happen if you hand them stuff with typos or other issues.

Also, don't be afraid to share your ideas for case strategy. If you see a new decision that might support an argument that no one has talked about or a strategy that hasn't come up, don't be afraid to mention it to your partner. For my first year or so I wouldn't bring up case strategy ideas because I was convinced that I knew nothing and if we weren't pursuing that strategy it must be because someone else already thought of it and decided against it. When I started sharing ideas obviously not all of them were good, but some were, and when some of my ideas disposed of cases it made the partners I work with respect me a lot more. They started coming into my office regularly to spit ball and talk through their own ideas for case strategy. I wish I'd done it sooner, because it was the main thing that solidified me as a member of the team.

Also when you're the one who comes up with the basis for getting the case dismissed the partner will often let you be in charge of drafting the motion to dismiss (even as a second year), which is pretty rad.

gbeetee3
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Jun 05, 2015 9:37 am

Re: Advice for Being a Useful/Valuable Junior Associate?

Postby gbeetee3 » Tue Jul 28, 2015 7:49 pm

Bump




Return to “Legal Employment”

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.