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Postby Anonymous User » Fri Apr 21, 2017 2:54 pm

Feeling better. Thanks everyone for the advice!
Last edited by Anonymous User on Fri Apr 21, 2017 3:50 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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rpupkin

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Re: Midlevels and Seniors: How do you increase your efficiency

Postby rpupkin » Fri Apr 21, 2017 3:13 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm a junior associate who was just told by one of the partners in management that a partner I did work for had to write off some of my time. He was nice about it, but I don't want this to happen again. I was asked to find an example of something that doesn't appear often (rare exception to a rule) and write a memo about it. It took me 14 hours and several calls to Lexis' reference attorneys, and the only things I found were tangentially related to the facts of our case. I emailed the partner throughout the case to give him updates, but received no response. Anyway, I probably should had given up sooner.

What's the best way to approach projects like this? Also, what are some ways to improve efficiency in general?

First, it is extremely common for partners to write off time for junior associates. It's basically expected in big law. Now that I'm more senior I see client bills from time to time, and I realize how much of my time was likely written off (without me realizing it) when I was a junior associate.

Did the partner make it sound like you did something wrong? Was he giving you feedback as part of a performance review or something? If not, then I wouldn't be too concerned about it.

My advice to you is not to cut corners. Early in your career, I think you're better off erring on the side of solid work product. In general, most partners are of the view that efficiency is something that will come with time, whereas sloppy/incompetent work product is a problem that's harder to cure. So unless the partner specifically said something like "we need you to be more efficient," I wouldn't make drastic changes in your approach.

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Re: Midlevels and Seniors: How do you increase your efficiency

Postby lolwat » Fri Apr 21, 2017 3:20 pm

rpupkin wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'm a junior associate who was just told by one of the partners in management that a partner I did work for had to write off some of my time. He was nice about it, but I don't want this to happen again. I was asked to find an example of something that doesn't appear often (rare exception to a rule) and write a memo about it. It took me 14 hours and several calls to Lexis' reference attorneys, and the only things I found were tangentially related to the facts of our case. I emailed the partner throughout the case to give him updates, but received no response. Anyway, I probably should had given up sooner.

What's the best way to approach projects like this? Also, what are some ways to improve efficiency in general?

First, it is extremely common for partners to write off time for junior associates. It's basically expected in big law. Now that I'm more senior I see client bills from time to time, and I realize how much of my time was likely written off (without me realizing it) when I was more junior.

Did the partner make it sound like you did something wrong? Was he giving you feedback as part of a performance review or something? If not, then I wouldn't be too concerned about it.

My advice to you is not to cut corners. Early in your career, I think you're better off erring on the side of solid work product. In general, most partners are of the view that efficiency is something that will come with time, whereas sloppy/incompetent work product is a problem that's harder to cure. So unless the partner specifically said something like "we need you to be more efficient," I wouldn't make drastic changes in your approach.


I agree with this. Unless you're told otherwise and within reason, I would take as long as you need to do something, knowing that some of that time probably will get cut. The idea is that as a junior associate, it might take you 14 hours to do something that would have taken someone else 10 hours to do, so 4 hours of your time gets cut. But as you progress, you become more efficient simply by virtue of having more experience. Solid work product is much, much more important in the early years. Prove you can do amazing work first, then later on prove you can do amazing work in less time.

As for research projects that yield nothing after a while... my advice, which may or may not be universally accepted, is to set a reasonable benchmark at which you should check in with whomever assigned you the project and ask if you should go on. For example, sometimes I'll research something for 3-4 hours, and I'll send an e-mail to the "senior associate" saying "Hey, I spent 3 hours on this, checked all the usual treatises, and I ran a pile of searches on this issue, and there's just literally nothing out there so far. That means although we won't have support for our argument for X Y Z, the opposing counsel also won't have support for any counterarguments. Do you want me to continue looking, or should I stop here?"
Last edited by lolwat on Fri Apr 21, 2017 3:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Midlevels and Seniors: How do you increase your efficiency

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Apr 21, 2017 3:21 pm

rpupkin wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'm a junior associate who was just told by one of the partners in management that a partner I did work for had to write off some of my time. He was nice about it, but I don't want this to happen again. I was asked to find an example of something that doesn't appear often (rare exception to a rule) and write a memo about it. It took me 14 hours and several calls to Lexis' reference attorneys, and the only things I found were tangentially related to the facts of our case. I emailed the partner throughout the case to give him updates, but received no response. Anyway, I probably should had given up sooner.

What's the best way to approach projects like this? Also, what are some ways to improve efficiency in general?

First, it is extremely common for partners to write off time for junior associates. It's basically expected in big law. Now that I'm more senior I see client bills from time to time, and I realize how much of my time was likely written off (without me realizing it) when I was a junior associate.

Did the partner make it sound like you did something wrong? Was he giving you feedback as part of a performance review or something? If not, then I wouldn't be too concerned about it.

My advice to you is not to cut corners. Early in your career, I think you're better off erring on the side of solid work product. In general, most partners are of the view that efficiency is something that will come with time, whereas sloppy/incompetent work product is a problem that's harder to cure. So unless the partner specifically said something like "we need you to be more efficient," I wouldn't make drastic changes in your approach.


I don't think so (and it wasn't formal) but I may not have picked up on subtle cues. He just stopped by my office, asked me if I like my cases (I do.) and that "Partner X said that you too long for the assignment and he had to write off some of the time. Next time, just remember to ask the partner how much time you should take for each assignment."

I explained the situation, apologized for not anticipating Partner X's needs, agreed to the above, and said I will do better next time to anticipate the partners' needs.

I guess I feel a little stupid for not asking, and am a little worried it might have a negative impact on people's willingness to give me work. (I have since started asking/ shaving time off my own hours.)

lolwat

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Re: Midlevels and Seniors: How do you increase your efficiency

Postby lolwat » Fri Apr 21, 2017 3:25 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I don't think so (and it wasn't formal) but I may not have picked up on subtle cues. He just stopped by my office, asked me if I like my cases (I do.) and that "Partner X said that you too long for the assignment and he had to write off some of the time. Next time, just remember to ask the partner how much time you should take for each assignment."


Yeah, that's reasonable. I don't think it's anything bad, at least not the first time. Just learn from it and don't be a repeat offender from there.

Also, at least at my firm, I would not suggest shaving off the time yourself. Let the partners cut the time...

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Lacepiece23

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Re: Midlevels and Seniors: How do you increase your efficiency

Postby Lacepiece23 » Fri Apr 21, 2017 3:33 pm

Not to be a dick, but I just never understood how you could spend that long looking for something and not notify your superior. It's kind of common sense, if you're looking for a discrete issue, and you don't find anything after a couple of hours shoot whomever assigned you the research an e-mail or a call. I've had literally one research assignment where the assigning attorney wanted me to go scorched earth and exhaust all resources finding the answer. Most times this is just some tangential point in a footnote that no one really cares that much about.

Just check in more. This isn't an efficiency issue. An efficiency issue would be if it took you 10 hours to write a brief that a peer would have written in four. Try to think about how your assignment fits in the grand scheme of the case and ask question/keep people updated. FYI. At a lot of firms, if the partner has to cut hours it hurts their stats/comp. Don't be that guy/gal that turns in a 10 hour research assignment with nothing to show for it.

By the way, I reread your post, at 8 hours you should have called. Some partners do not like or respond to e-mail. Better yet, knock on partner's door. It sucks, everyone hates doing it, but you have to in this situation. Can't hide behind e-mail.

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rpupkin

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Re: Midlevels and Seniors: How do you increase your efficiency

Postby rpupkin » Fri Apr 21, 2017 3:38 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
rpupkin wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'm a junior associate who was just told by one of the partners in management that a partner I did work for had to write off some of my time. He was nice about it, but I don't want this to happen again. I was asked to find an example of something that doesn't appear often (rare exception to a rule) and write a memo about it. It took me 14 hours and several calls to Lexis' reference attorneys, and the only things I found were tangentially related to the facts of our case. I emailed the partner throughout the case to give him updates, but received no response. Anyway, I probably should had given up sooner.

What's the best way to approach projects like this? Also, what are some ways to improve efficiency in general?

First, it is extremely common for partners to write off time for junior associates. It's basically expected in big law. Now that I'm more senior I see client bills from time to time, and I realize how much of my time was likely written off (without me realizing it) when I was a junior associate.

Did the partner make it sound like you did something wrong? Was he giving you feedback as part of a performance review or something? If not, then I wouldn't be too concerned about it.

My advice to you is not to cut corners. Early in your career, I think you're better off erring on the side of solid work product. In general, most partners are of the view that efficiency is something that will come with time, whereas sloppy/incompetent work product is a problem that's harder to cure. So unless the partner specifically said something like "we need you to be more efficient," I wouldn't make drastic changes in your approach.


I don't think so (and it wasn't formal) but I may not have picked up on subtle cues. He just stopped by my office, asked me if I like my cases (I do.) and that "Partner X said that you too long for the assignment and he had to write off some of the time. Next time, just remember to ask the partner how much time you should take for each assignment."

Ok. The bolded is the real issue here. The partner's complaint was less about your lack of efficiency and more about your failure to communicate.

Anonymous User
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Re: Midlevels and Seniors: How do you increase your efficiency

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Apr 21, 2017 3:46 pm

rpupkin wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
rpupkin wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'm a junior associate who was just told by one of the partners in management that a partner I did work for had to write off some of my time. He was nice about it, but I don't want this to happen again. I was asked to find an example of something that doesn't appear often (rare exception to a rule) and write a memo about it. It took me 14 hours and several calls to Lexis' reference attorneys, and the only things I found were tangentially related to the facts of our case. I emailed the partner throughout the case to give him updates, but received no response. Anyway, I probably should had given up sooner.

What's the best way to approach projects like this? Also, what are some ways to improve efficiency in general?

First, it is extremely common for partners to write off time for junior associates. It's basically expected in big law. Now that I'm more senior I see client bills from time to time, and I realize how much of my time was likely written off (without me realizing it) when I was a junior associate.

Did the partner make it sound like you did something wrong? Was he giving you feedback as part of a performance review or something? If not, then I wouldn't be too concerned about it.

My advice to you is not to cut corners. Early in your career, I think you're better off erring on the side of solid work product. In general, most partners are of the view that efficiency is something that will come with time, whereas sloppy/incompetent work product is a problem that's harder to cure. So unless the partner specifically said something like "we need you to be more efficient," I wouldn't make drastic changes in your approach.


I don't think so (and it wasn't formal) but I may not have picked up on subtle cues. He just stopped by my office, asked me if I like my cases (I do.) and that "Partner X said that you too long for the assignment and he had to write off some of the time. Next time, just remember to ask the partner how much time you should take for each assignment."

Ok. The bolded is the real issue here. The partner's complaint was less about your lack of efficiency and more about your failure to communicate.


Then I'm confused. I emailed Partner X multiple times throughout the process with updates. Anyway, I definitely should be more careful with time in the future.

Edit: Oh I see what happened. That makes sense.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Fri Apr 21, 2017 3:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Lacepiece23

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Re: Midlevels and Seniors: How do you increase your efficiency

Postby Lacepiece23 » Fri Apr 21, 2017 3:48 pm

rpupkin wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
rpupkin wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'm a junior associate who was just told by one of the partners in management that a partner I did work for had to write off some of my time. He was nice about it, but I don't want this to happen again. I was asked to find an example of something that doesn't appear often (rare exception to a rule) and write a memo about it. It took me 14 hours and several calls to Lexis' reference attorneys, and the only things I found were tangentially related to the facts of our case. I emailed the partner throughout the case to give him updates, but received no response. Anyway, I probably should had given up sooner.

What's the best way to approach projects like this? Also, what are some ways to improve efficiency in general?

First, it is extremely common for partners to write off time for junior associates. It's basically expected in big law. Now that I'm more senior I see client bills from time to time, and I realize how much of my time was likely written off (without me realizing it) when I was a junior associate.

Did the partner make it sound like you did something wrong? Was he giving you feedback as part of a performance review or something? If not, then I wouldn't be too concerned about it.

My advice to you is not to cut corners. Early in your career, I think you're better off erring on the side of solid work product. In general, most partners are of the view that efficiency is something that will come with time, whereas sloppy/incompetent work product is a problem that's harder to cure. So unless the partner specifically said something like "we need you to be more efficient," I wouldn't make drastic changes in your approach.


I don't think so (and it wasn't formal) but I may not have picked up on subtle cues. He just stopped by my office, asked me if I like my cases (I do.) and that "Partner X said that you too long for the assignment and he had to write off some of the time. Next time, just remember to ask the partner how much time you should take for each assignment."

Ok. The bolded is the real issue here. The partner's complaint was less about your lack of efficiency and more about your failure to communicate.


Agreed. Part of the job that sucks is having to communicate. I'm a social person, but this part is hard for everyone. Yes, it is your job to knock on a busy partner's door, who doesn't want to deal with you, and explain quickly what you are or not finding. Yes, it is your job to notify that partner immediately of any mistakes you make. Yes, it is your job to basically be annoying, and add value very rarely at the beginning, but you avoid situations like this where you quite literally affect the partner's compensations.

Every partner will take annoying vs. losing money. Just have to suck it up. Also, on the flip side, you will have times where you have a great idea that will really alter case strategy. Don't be afraid to speak up. You're the one researching the law. You know it probably better than the partners. I've had times where I've recommended strategy after doing research. One time I had a spot on stragetgy recommendation, the partner utilized my strategy, and made me pro hac into the case so my name could be on the Complaint. Just some tips.

Anonymous User
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Re: Midlevels and Seniors: How do you increase your efficiency

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Apr 21, 2017 3:49 pm

Lacepiece23 wrote:Not to be a dick, but I just never understood how you could spend that long looking for something and not notify your superior. It's kind of common sense, if you're looking for a discrete issue, and you don't find anything after a couple of hours shoot whomever assigned you the research an e-mail or a call. I've had literally one research assignment where the assigning attorney wanted me to go scorched earth and exhaust all resources finding the answer. Most times this is just some tangential point in a footnote that no one really cares that much about.

Just check in more. This isn't an efficiency issue. An efficiency issue would be if it took you 10 hours to write a brief that a peer would have written in four. Try to think about how your assignment fits in the grand scheme of the case and ask question/keep people updated. FYI. At a lot of firms, if the partner has to cut hours it hurts their stats/comp. Don't be that guy/gal that turns in a 10 hour research assignment with nothing to show for it.

By the way, I reread your post, at 8 hours you should have called. Some partners do not like or respond to e-mail. Better yet, knock on partner's door. It sucks, everyone hates doing it, but you have to in this situation. Can't hide behind e-mail.


Good point about calling; I guess I got used to email and forgot to use other methods. Thanks!

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Lacepiece23

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Re: Midlevels and Seniors: How do you increase your efficiency

Postby Lacepiece23 » Fri Apr 21, 2017 3:53 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Lacepiece23 wrote:Not to be a dick, but I just never understood how you could spend that long looking for something and not notify your superior. It's kind of common sense, if you're looking for a discrete issue, and you don't find anything after a couple of hours shoot whomever assigned you the research an e-mail or a call. I've had literally one research assignment where the assigning attorney wanted me to go scorched earth and exhaust all resources finding the answer. Most times this is just some tangential point in a footnote that no one really cares that much about.

Just check in more. This isn't an efficiency issue. An efficiency issue would be if it took you 10 hours to write a brief that a peer would have written in four. Try to think about how your assignment fits in the grand scheme of the case and ask question/keep people updated. FYI. At a lot of firms, if the partner has to cut hours it hurts their stats/comp. Don't be that guy/gal that turns in a 10 hour research assignment with nothing to show for it.

By the way, I reread your post, at 8 hours you should have called. Some partners do not like or respond to e-mail. Better yet, knock on partner's door. It sucks, everyone hates doing it, but you have to in this situation. Can't hide behind e-mail.


Good point about calling; I guess I got used to email and forgot to use other methods. Thanks!


This also gets easier over time. Once you start having a working relationship with people, you kind of get a feel for how long stuff should take, and feel very comfortable just calling if it's taking too long. I pick up the phone on a weekly basis and have this conversation: "Me: I've spent three, hours I can't find this shit, do you really need it?" Senior associate/partner: "No, not really, maybe spend a couple more hours and try these bullshit search terms that I recommend."



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