Practical tips for survival in biglaw

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Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby VulcanVulcanVulcan » Mon Sep 14, 2015 4:44 pm

I'm starting at a V10 soon and need to survive at least a couple of years. I'm interested in advice from current associates about tips and little things that make biglaw easier. Not so much career/long-term stuff but day-to-day things that will make biglaw slightly less difficult.

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby gk101 » Mon Sep 14, 2015 5:24 pm

be prompt with entering your time

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Anastasia Dee Dualla

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby Anastasia Dee Dualla » Mon Sep 14, 2015 5:33 pm

gk101 wrote:be prompt with entering your time


This. Also:
(1) Get a home printer/scanner (or live close enough that coming in on the weekend isn't a nightmare) (DISCLAIMER: I am a banking/finance associate and I definitely needed a printer, not everyone will);
(2) Get a monitor at home to hook your laptop into; your eyes will thank you;
(3) Set expectations with your assistant (i.e. should he/she answer your phone, do you work with your door closed);
(4) Set expectations with all other support staff (i.e. don't be afraid to (politely) give a paralegal a deadline);
Last edited by Anastasia Dee Dualla on Mon Sep 14, 2015 8:59 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby WhirledWorld » Mon Sep 14, 2015 5:53 pm

Use the support staff (paralegals, copy-editors, your secretary) for copy-editing, running changes, cross-reference checks, etc. They can also help you with checklists (to keep track of work progress) and working group lists (to keep track of all the parties and their contact info). Use the library as well--they're going to be better than you at research for quite awhile.

Organize your emails. Have a folder for each matter and create rules so that all relevant emails auto filter to that folder. Better if you create subfolders to keep track of key documents, signatures, etc.

Use your vacation.

Don't be afraid to say no to additional work, particularly if you know you're going to be busy. It's also fine to say no to work if you have a matter that isn't busy now but could blow up anytime soon. You don't want to burn out, and you particularly don't want to turn in terrible work product because you're stretched too thin.

Try to get a sense of when things need to be done--you will get emails that ask you to do stuff that don't give a deadline, and your inclination may be to drop everything and do it ASAP. That's almost never the case. Don't be afraid to ask for a deadline if it's not given, and eventually you'll get a sense for the work that can be put off until tomorrow or next week.

Try to get a sense of the different work styles of people in the office. Ask your seniors who they prefer working with, and they may let you also know who to avoid, or how to handle certain coworkers.

Make sure you can reliably work while out of the office--your printer prints, scans, you can log-in no problem, etc.

Don't be afraid to ask questions. Ounce of prevention...

Be flexible. Work will sometimes get in the way of your plans, so don't let it devastate you when it does.

Keep a positive attitude. This job is usually pretty cool, but when it sucks, it really, really sucks. It's fine and healthy to vent and complain to your friends or SO, but don't make it toxic at work. Make sure you're getting sleep and getting exercise.

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby CanadianWolf » Mon Sep 14, 2015 6:49 pm

Timeliness. Assignment deadlines are critical.

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby mister logical » Mon Sep 14, 2015 7:16 pm

WhirledWorld wrote:Use the support staff (paralegals, copy-editors, your secretary) for copy-editing, running changes, cross-reference checks, etc. They can also help you with checklists (to keep track of work progress) and working group lists (to keep track of all the parties and their contact info). Use the library as well--they're going to be better than you at research for quite awhile.

Organize your emails. Have a folder for each matter and create rules so that all relevant emails auto filter to that folder. Better if you create subfolders to keep track of key documents, signatures, etc.

Use your vacation.

Don't be afraid to say no to additional work, particularly if you know you're going to be busy. It's also fine to say no to work if you have a matter that isn't busy now but could blow up anytime soon. You don't want to burn out, and you particularly don't want to turn in terrible work product because you're stretched too thin.

Try to get a sense of when things need to be done--you will get emails that ask you to do stuff that don't give a deadline, and your inclination may be to drop everything and do it ASAP. That's almost never the case. Don't be afraid to ask for a deadline if it's not given, and eventually you'll get a sense for the work that can be put off until tomorrow or next week.

Try to get a sense of the different work styles of people in the office. Ask your seniors who they prefer working with, and they may let you also know who to avoid, or how to handle certain coworkers.

Make sure you can reliably work while out of the office--your printer prints, scans, you can log-in no problem, etc.

Don't be afraid to ask questions. Ounce of prevention...

Be flexible. Work will sometimes get in the way of your plans, so don't let it devastate you when it does.

Keep a positive attitude. This job is usually pretty cool, but when it sucks, it really, really sucks. It's fine and healthy to vent and complain to your friends or SO, but don't make it toxic at work. Make sure you're getting sleep and getting exercise.


Awesome, cheers

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby orangecup » Mon Sep 14, 2015 7:31 pm

Anastasia Dee Dualla wrote:(1) Get a home printer/scanner (or live close enough that coming in on the weekend isn't a nightmare);


Will any basic model work (think $40-50), or should we opt for something a little nicer?

Curious about whether the reliability / ability to print volume changes at different prices points.

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby SplitMyPants » Mon Sep 14, 2015 7:51 pm

orangecup wrote:
Anastasia Dee Dualla wrote:(1) Get a home printer/scanner (or live close enough that coming in on the weekend isn't a nightmare);


Will any basic model work (think $40-50), or should we opt for something a little nicer?

Curious about whether the reliability / ability to print volume changes at different prices points.


I'm just a 2L, but I'm considering springing for a quality printer. IMO you want it to be laserjet, bc it's 2015. Also, you want probably want duplex (two-sided) printing. Additionally, it seems useful to have duplex scanning as well.

Something like this is excellent:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MRAU8OE.

Or this:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MRAU8OE

Of course, not having duplex scanning will be cheaper:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MFG58N6

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Sep 14, 2015 8:32 pm

Get a prescription for ritalin/adderall (...only half-kidding)

I would hold off on the printer until you begin working and find that you need it, unless you really like to read things in hard copy. I survived 5 years of big law without a printer or scanner at home. It would have been a waste of money for me.

Be flexible and follow the lead of associates in your group that you want to emulate. Ask associates that you trust for advice, especially when it comes to dealing with difficult personalities.

Never talk shit about people you work with.

Don't complain at work.

Don't turn down work from a partner that is good to you. It is hard to find partners and senior associates that will invest time into developing you as a lawyer. If you find one or multiple, hold on for dear life and keep them happy. When you exit big law (which you probably will), your substantive experience will land you your next job. If no one invested time in helping you develop and you got shit work, your exit options will be significantly worse, assuming you want to stay in law. You don't want to be a 4th year associate that is still doing due diligence and isn't getting a chance to take ownership of deals. Ideally, you want a mentor that has a large book of business because they will feed you and protect you from shitty work.

Try to avoid getting less than 6 hours sleep if at all possible.

Don't write-off your own time. REALLY IMPORTANT!

Develop a good reputation early on - work hard, be responsive, be eager, be positive and ask questions. Care about doing a good job. Be organized - it does not foster trust if your office is a mess or you cannot find emails/files. Organization is 99% of the battle with big law - most practice groups require project management skills more so than outstanding legal skills, at least in the early years. This reputation will make your path a lot easier, even though those that are sought after have their own challenges.

Try to maintain a workout regime.

Bring lunch everyday - it will keep you healthier and save you lots of money.

Be nice to support staff and everyone else in the office.

Think carefully about what practice group you join. I know lots of people that regret joining a practice group because they didn't think through their exit options. It is very unlikely that you will stay in big law.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Mon Sep 14, 2015 8:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby 84651846190 » Mon Sep 14, 2015 8:33 pm

anal sex

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby DJ JD » Mon Sep 14, 2015 10:14 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Think carefully about what practice group you join. I know lots of people that regret joining a practice group because they didn't think through their exit options. It is very unlikely that you will stay in big law.


About that last part, assuming you're a transactional guy, which groups in that umbrella are particularly bad for exiting? I'd figure M&A probably gives you the broadest range, whereas hyper-specialized practices like ERISA probably don't make much financial sense to bring in for most companies, but any more clarity is always appreciated.

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby SweetrollStealer » Mon Sep 14, 2015 10:27 pm

Avoid cynicism about your job or specific tasks you're working on. Find something about the deal or case you're on that's genuinely interesting to you and focus on that as motivation if you have to.

Don't ever feel bad about billing a lot of time on a project if it actually took a long time, expensing meals, taking black cars, and otherwise taking full advantage of every perk the firm offers you.

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby mister logical » Tue Sep 15, 2015 11:42 am

DJ JD wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Think carefully about what practice group you join. I know lots of people that regret joining a practice group because they didn't think through their exit options. It is very unlikely that you will stay in big law.


About that last part, assuming you're a transactional guy, which groups in that umbrella are particularly bad for exiting? I'd figure M&A probably gives you the broadest range, whereas hyper-specialized practices like ERISA probably don't make much financial sense to bring in for most companies, but any more clarity is always appreciated.


interested in this too

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 15, 2015 12:20 pm

No particular order to the below, though I'd say #1 truly is #1:

1. Find good people to work with. Often, your experience will not depend on "firm culture". Nor will it depend on the office culture. Rather, your experience will come down to the specific people with whom you work, and the group you are in. And even within particular groups, there are good apples and bad ones. Ending up with toxic work pipelines makes for a truly awful biglaw experience (though it beats not having any work pipeline at all). Find the people you really gel with, and whose work is substantively interesting to you. Both are truly necessary, and you won't last long if one or the other is missing (and certainly not if both are missing).

2. Know the resources available to you and determine how to make the best use of them. Many big firms have a full copying center, docketing person, paralegal team, etc. Learn how to utilize these tools to help save you time.

3. Take ownership of matters/issues, and try and think of new/novel ways to contribute. Don't just be a drone who gets an assignment and just spits back exactly what he is asked for, and then turns right to the next thing. Show some level of substantive engagement and critical thinking that goes beyond the bare instructions given to you. If you show that you are thinking proactively and trying to preempt questions and concerns, it really makes a great impression on others. I'm not saying to be a mind-reader. But always take some time to think of ways to contribute value beyond what you are asked for (so long as its not a huge time drain). Even if your input isn't spot on or ultimately utilized, your superior will almost certainly appreciate your initiative and engagement.

4. As others said, enter your time promptly. Can't stress this enough. Even one day later, I forget how long I spent on certain matters. Get into a habit of just entering time as often as possible, ideally on a daily basis. The risk/reward justifies doing so. Few things are so easy to just suck it up and do. And few things will get you chewed out more than forgetting to enter your time.

5. Be responsive, but learn how to set some boundaries. In general, you should promptly respond to emails and calls, whether in the office or not. People always appreciate prompt communication, especially when they reach out at somewhat odd hours. But on the other hand, you need to have some level of balance. If you are on vacation and an email to you can clearly wait until you get back, then wait until you get back. Don't open pandoras box by answering, since that will inevitably lead people to think that you are "available." Out to dinner with your spouse? Let the damn email go unless its earth-shakingly urgent.

6. Don't be afraid to say no to additional work if you are truly booked full. The worst thing you could do is take on work that you don't really have time for, and then turn in a subpar final product. Further, all the rest of your projects will likely suffer as a result. My view is that no one will entirely stop offering you work simply because you were booked full one time (though if they feel its a constant thing, they will likely go elsewhere). Also, to "mend some bridges", you can always reach back out to the person once you free up a bit, to remind that you would be happy to work with them, and now have some time.

7. Don't get roped into the biglaw mentality and mindset. There will always be the few who ruin it for the rest. You know the type. Those who bill 250+ hours every single month, and chide others who are not 110% all about dat biglaw. Be honest with yourself and tune out that noise. If biglaw is just a temporary stepping stone for you as a way to pay off debt and gain some experience, then thats what it is. You shouldn't feel guilty about that (and you wouldn't be alone in feeling that way). Don't pay attention to those who essentially brag about their all-nighters, take narcissistic pride in never taking vacations, etc.

8. Take your vacation time. Have some spine and don't cave to the pressure of those who push you to not take it. And by "take vacation" I don't mean do work while on the beach. Take some real vacation where you draw some real boundaries. Make people respect those boundaries. If you are going camping in the mountains and will only be able to check email once a day, then thats the case and you need to hold firm. The minute you start caving is the minute you will get taken advantage of. Give an inch and biglaw takes a mile.

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby SemperLegal » Tue Sep 15, 2015 12:25 pm

mister logical wrote:
DJ JD wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Think carefully about what practice group you join. I know lots of people that regret joining a practice group because they didn't think through their exit options. It is very unlikely that you will stay in big law.


About that last part, assuming you're a transactional guy, which groups in that umbrella are particularly bad for exiting? I'd figure M&A probably gives you the broadest range, whereas hyper-specialized practices like ERISA probably don't make much financial sense to bring in for most companies, but any more clarity is always appreciated.


interested in this too

3

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby nealric » Tue Sep 15, 2015 12:28 pm

Practice selective incompetence as a junior. If you get assigned a project from a slave driving ogre, don't do a bang up job. Do enough not to make the partner rant and rave, but not so much the partner wants to work with you again. If you get assigned a project from someone good to work with, pour your heart and soul into it. Be careful and be sensitive to firm politics when you do this.

If you end up the go-to for a difficult partner, your life is going to be miserable. If you end up working for good partners, biglaw is quite tolerable.

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 15, 2015 2:48 pm

Take all this advice to heart - it is fantastic advice. But most importantly, don't get discouraged if you can't follow it all on your first year on the job. All of the advice given in these posts is great and I've violated every single one of these rules multiple times. But if you are willing to learn from your mistakes and adjust your behavior, things will get easier over time.

Managing workflow is really important. The best and happiest seniors leave enough of a cushion so that if a matter blows up, comes back, or they get pulled on to another matter, they have plenty of capacity and can still turn out good work. It's somewhat of an art because you never know what is going to happen or what the partners' schedules are (suddenly the partner wants that draft of the brief one month in advance of filing because the court scheduled an emergency hearing in another case, that case the partner didn't do any work on because she thought it was going to settle now requires a 40 hour week) but if you are at a V10, do not worry about making hours. As a junior the best thing you can do is turn in quality work on deadline. Don't try to compete with the people who talk constantly about all the matters they are on, the assignments they are getting, or their hours billed.

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby rpupkin » Tue Sep 15, 2015 2:55 pm

Anonymous User wrote:No particular order to the below, though I'd say #1 truly is #1:

1. Find good people to work with. Often, your experience will not depend on "firm culture". Nor will it depend on the office culture. Rather, your experience will come down to the specific people with whom you work, and the group you are in. And even within particular groups, there are good apples and bad ones. Ending up with toxic work pipelines makes for a truly awful biglaw experience (though it beats not having any work pipeline at all). Find the people you really gel with, and whose work is substantively interesting to you. Both are truly necessary, and you won't last long if one or the other is missing (and certainly not if both are missing).

2. Know the resources available to you and determine how to make the best use of them. Many big firms have a full copying center, docketing person, paralegal team, etc. Learn how to utilize these tools to help save you time.

3. Take ownership of matters/issues, and try and think of new/novel ways to contribute. Don't just be a drone who gets an assignment and just spits back exactly what he is asked for, and then turns right to the next thing. Show some level of substantive engagement and critical thinking that goes beyond the bare instructions given to you. If you show that you are thinking proactively and trying to preempt questions and concerns, it really makes a great impression on others. I'm not saying to be a mind-reader. But always take some time to think of ways to contribute value beyond what you are asked for (so long as its not a huge time drain). Even if your input isn't spot on or ultimately utilized, your superior will almost certainly appreciate your initiative and engagement.

4. As others said, enter your time promptly. Can't stress this enough. Even one day later, I forget how long I spent on certain matters. Get into a habit of just entering time as often as possible, ideally on a daily basis. The risk/reward justifies doing so. Few things are so easy to just suck it up and do. And few things will get you chewed out more than forgetting to enter your time.

5. Be responsive, but learn how to set some boundaries. In general, you should promptly respond to emails and calls, whether in the office or not. People always appreciate prompt communication, especially when they reach out at somewhat odd hours. But on the other hand, you need to have some level of balance. If you are on vacation and an email to you can clearly wait until you get back, then wait until you get back. Don't open pandoras box by answering, since that will inevitably lead people to think that you are "available." Out to dinner with your spouse? Let the damn email go unless its earth-shakingly urgent.

6. Don't be afraid to say no to additional work if you are truly booked full. The worst thing you could do is take on work that you don't really have time for, and then turn in a subpar final product. Further, all the rest of your projects will likely suffer as a result. My view is that no one will entirely stop offering you work simply because you were booked full one time (though if they feel its a constant thing, they will likely go elsewhere). Also, to "mend some bridges", you can always reach back out to the person once you free up a bit, to remind that you would be happy to work with them, and now have some time.

7. Don't get roped into the biglaw mentality and mindset. There will always be the few who ruin it for the rest. You know the type. Those who bill 250+ hours every single month, and chide others who are not 110% all about dat biglaw. Be honest with yourself and tune out that noise. If biglaw is just a temporary stepping stone for you as a way to pay off debt and gain some experience, then thats what it is. You shouldn't feel guilty about that (and you wouldn't be alone in feeling that way). Don't pay attention to those who essentially brag about their all-nighters, take narcissistic pride in never taking vacations, etc.

8. Take your vacation time. Have some spine and don't cave to the pressure of those who push you to not take it. And by "take vacation" I don't mean do work while on the beach. Take some real vacation where you draw some real boundaries. Make people respect those boundaries. If you are going camping in the mountains and will only be able to check email once a day, then thats the case and you need to hold firm. The minute you start caving is the minute you will get taken advantage of. Give an inch and biglaw takes a mile.


This is excellent advice, right on down the line. I think it's the single best post I've read in the history of the Legal Employment forum.

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 15, 2015 3:24 pm

Couple of other tips:

1) Do not take on any pro bono for at least a year. It can be good experience and you can get exposure to partners and clients that you otherwise would not, but it can also be a huge timesuck, can interfere with your billable work, and you don't get "leeway" for subpar work especially if it is a big case. Wait until you've figured out how to control your schedule and workflow before committing to pro bono. Watch out for seniors who try to peer pressure you into taking on pro bono cases - a red flag that those matters are taking up a ton of time.

2) Eventually, relatively quickly at some firms, you will be in the position of delegating work that might come down several steps on the chain or requesting stuff from other people. Whenever something needs to be delegated/requested, no matter how busy you are at the time, do it immediately. I've been burned multiple times by waiting 4-5 hours to delegate work because I was really focused on something else and then running up against a deadline where the person I delegated to has some emergency, misinterpreted instructions, was out sick/took planned vacation, just didn't start on time, etc. etc. You want to leave yourself as much time as possible with whatever they get you to review or edit it.

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby WhirledWorld » Tue Sep 15, 2015 4:30 pm

Anonymous User wrote:1) Do not take on any pro bono for at least a year. It can be good experience and you can get exposure to partners and clients that you otherwise would not, but it can also be a huge timesuck, can interfere with your billable work, and you don't get "leeway" for subpar work especially if it is a big case. Wait until you've figured out how to control your schedule and workflow before committing to pro bono. Watch out for seniors who try to peer pressure you into taking on pro bono cases - a red flag that those matters are taking up a ton of time.


I'll just say that taking on pro bono can be an awesome move--you just have to be smart about what matters you get involved in. Some pro bono can invovle urgent, drop-everything work--think anything that involves multiple hearings, in-person meetings, etc. This work can be awesome and so rewarding, but I'd agree that as a first-year you should be careful because these can be difficult to balance with other projects.

On the other hand, many pro bono projects can be amazing. You get some of the best experience you'll get as a junior attorney (as in, you become the client's primary contact, you get as much experience as you want). And much of the work can be very flexible, so you can put it off during fire drills and give you something to do during the slow weeks.

So I wouldn't recommend taking on multiple projects or projects with rigid schedules. But if you can get one of those "be the general counsel for this non-profit" cases, it can be an awesome experience.

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 15, 2015 5:41 pm

http://www.dailylawyertips.com

All of these are vital to review

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby nealric » Tue Sep 15, 2015 5:51 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Couple of other tips:

1) Do not take on any pro bono for at least a year. It can be good experience and you can get exposure to partners and clients that you otherwise would not, but it can also be a huge timesuck, can interfere with your billable work, and you don't get "leeway" for subpar work especially if it is a big case. Wait until you've figured out how to control your schedule and workflow before committing to pro bono. Watch out for seniors who try to peer pressure you into taking on pro bono cases - a red flag that those matters are taking up a ton of time.



Not an option in most cases (at least it wasn't for me). Partner assigns it, you are doing it unless you have a REALLY good excuse. It's usually some bigwig's pet project that he sure as hell isn't going to do himself.

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby rahulg91 » Tue Sep 15, 2015 9:28 pm

Anonymous User wrote:http://www.dailylawyertips.com


This is 190. Thx.



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