Is it okay to say "no" as an SA?

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Is it okay to say "no" as an SA?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 06, 2017 11:17 pm

Currently at a firm with about 30 attorneys, and I have to say... the firm seems a bit unorganized in terms of keeping track of assignments the summer associates receive. There are a few of us, and there seems to be no method to assigning work. Today I was given five assignments. I'm starting to feel overwhelmed as every day I get a new assignment (at least) but don't seem to have time to cross much off the to-do list :shock: (Plenty of "I want this in an hour" or "I want this by the end of the day," which means I don't have time to start cranking out more long-term assignments.) A lot of the work is easy but time consuming. I've also got some motions for summary judgment to draft, for example. I'm sure a lot of this is an adjustment to working in a firm and balancing time. Any advice is appreciated!

My question is: When, if ever, is it okay to tell partners you have a lot on your plate (and maybe can't handle another assignment)? I'm sure to the partners these assignments look like cake but they're pretty time consuming for a newbie like myself. Any input from the TLS world?

Already planning on working this weekend.

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Re: Is it okay to say "no" as an SA?

Postby foregetaboutdre » Tue Jun 06, 2017 11:39 pm

What's your vibe from the firm? I'm in a similar sized firm. First day at my firm during orientation partners said to be open about work etc.. if you're too busy to let them know, if you need work just ask.

If you're at some like ID sweatshop or something, you probably can't say no w/o pissing them off. The good thing is that you're continuing to get work. Do you have an associate/mentor to talk to?

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Re: Is it okay to say "no" as an SA?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 06, 2017 11:47 pm

foregetaboutdre wrote:What's your vibe from the firm? I'm in a similar sized firm. First day at my firm during orientation partners said to be open about work etc.. if you're too busy to let them know, if you need work just ask.

If you're at some like ID sweatshop or something, you probably can't say no w/o pissing them off. The good thing is that you're continuing to get work. Do you have an associate/mentor to talk to?


I just want to say that I summered at a biglaw firm last year. At orientation, we were told that we should be upfront about when we have multiple assignments that we were working on and learn how to say no to associates (since apparently it would be good practice for when we started as juniors). Despite that and also despite having finished many more assignments than was expected or necessary, the fact that I rejected a couple assignments came up at my end-of-summer review and actually was an issue. Still got an offer and generally am happy about where I'm going, however. But if I could do it over again, I would have just done everything I was asked to do, since I foreclosed the opportunity to work with some seniors.

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Re: Is it okay to say "no" as an SA?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 06, 2017 11:50 pm

You work at a 30 person firm with a few summers? I would like to know more: (1) Are they paying you, and (2) are you trying/likely to get a job offer out of this? If they are trying to recruit associate through their summer program, they are going about it in a strange way (generally firms are much nicer to their summers to lure them in). If it's not a situation where you are afraid that complaining is going to get you no-offered I would definitely start saying no.

If you need a more delicate approach consider firm politics. Do you have somebody (like an assigned partner mentor) that you can go to with this concern? Or, perhaps, (I used this move during my summer) are you working on a project for another scarier partner so you can say something to the effect of, "Hey I'd love to work on this but I'm doing a project for Dick Bills-A-Lot (hopefully someone more powerful than the person currently trying to give you an assignment), who needs it tomorrow, and it's currently consuming all my available bandwidth."

Also, what are the expectations regarding hours? Does everyone work nights and weekends? If you are really and truly swamped by the standards of your firm (i.e. already exceeding the expected hours), I think it's fine to tell partners what you are working on and say like "the earliest I can get another 5 hour project done is Wednesday afternoon because I have to complete X, Y and Z first." Major caveat: my firm was super chill about assigning stuff to summers.

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Re: Is it okay to say "no" as an SA?

Postby foregetaboutdre » Tue Jun 06, 2017 11:54 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
foregetaboutdre wrote:What's your vibe from the firm? I'm in a similar sized firm. First day at my firm during orientation partners said to be open about work etc.. if you're too busy to let them know, if you need work just ask.

If you're at some like ID sweatshop or something, you probably can't say no w/o pissing them off. The good thing is that you're continuing to get work. Do you have an associate/mentor to talk to?


I just want to say that I summered at a biglaw firm last year. At orientation, we were told that we should be upfront about when we have multiple assignments that we were working on and learn how to say no to associates (since apparently it would be good practice for when we started as juniors). Despite that and also despite having finished many more assignments than was expected or necessary, the fact that I rejected a couple assignments came up at my end-of-summer review and actually was an issue. Still got an offer and generally am happy about where I'm going, however. But if I could do it over again, I would have just done everything I was asked to do, since I foreclosed the opportunity to work with some seniors.


I'd agree with this. If someone new comes up to you or a bigshot partner and offers you work...don't say no (in most cases). It generally means they specifically thought about you and went out of their way to give you work.

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Re: Is it okay to say "no" as an SA?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 07, 2017 12:56 am

foregetaboutdre wrote:What's your vibe from the firm? I'm in a similar sized firm. First day at my firm during orientation partners said to be open about work etc.. if you're too busy to let them know, if you need work just ask.

If you're at some like ID sweatshop or something, you probably can't say no w/o pissing them off. The good thing is that you're continuing to get work. Do you have an associate/mentor to talk to?

I guess it's a bit early for me to say what my vibe is because whenever I receive assignments it's via email. I get little to no contact with anyone face-to-face. The partners all seem interested in just doing their work and leaving ASAP every day. From people I've talked to who have worked there before, it sounds like a lot of partners are jerks, but the partner who is kind of "in charge" of the summers is super nice and understanding. My thinking is that I would rather do better on fewer assignments than a rushed job on more? I'm planning on playing it by ear for a bit longer I think.

There is one associate who is very nice and always willing to help us, so she's someone I could ask. She definitely doesn't hesitate to tell the truth--even if she's dissing the firm.

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Re: Is it okay to say "no" as an SA?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 07, 2017 12:58 am

Anonymous User wrote:
foregetaboutdre wrote:What's your vibe from the firm? I'm in a similar sized firm. First day at my firm during orientation partners said to be open about work etc.. if you're too busy to let them know, if you need work just ask.

If you're at some like ID sweatshop or something, you probably can't say no w/o pissing them off. The good thing is that you're continuing to get work. Do you have an associate/mentor to talk to?


I just want to say that I summered at a biglaw firm last year. At orientation, we were told that we should be upfront about when we have multiple assignments that we were working on and learn how to say no to associates (since apparently it would be good practice for when we started as juniors). Despite that and also despite having finished many more assignments than was expected or necessary, the fact that I rejected a couple assignments came up at my end-of-summer review and actually was an issue. Still got an offer and generally am happy about where I'm going, however. But if I could do it over again, I would have just done everything I was asked to do, since I foreclosed the opportunity to work with some seniors.

I wish we had orientation. We didn't even have a single training/orientation day! We all met (most) people then were assigned projects an hour or so later. I'm definitely going to keep that in mind about rejecting assignments. I really want to not have to reject assignments or ever ask for extensions. A few partners have told me to let them know if I need more time so I'm hoping they wouldn't be upset if I did actually need more time.

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Re: Is it okay to say "no" as an SA?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 07, 2017 1:05 am

Anonymous User wrote:You work at a 30 person firm with a few summers? I would like to know more: (1) Are they paying you, and (2) are you trying/likely to get a job offer out of this? If they are trying to recruit associate through their summer program, they are going about it in a strange way (generally firms are much nicer to their summers to lure them in). If it's not a situation where you are afraid that complaining is going to get you no-offered I would definitely start saying no.

If you need a more delicate approach consider firm politics. Do you have somebody (like an assigned partner mentor) that you can go to with this concern? Or, perhaps, (I used this move during my summer) are you working on a project for another scarier partner so you can say something to the effect of, "Hey I'd love to work on this but I'm doing a project for Dick Bills-A-Lot (hopefully someone more powerful than the person currently trying to give you an assignment), who needs it tomorrow, and it's currently consuming all my available bandwidth."

Also, what are the expectations regarding hours? Does everyone work nights and weekends? If you are really and truly swamped by the standards of your firm (i.e. already exceeding the expected hours), I think it's fine to tell partners what you are working on and say like "the earliest I can get another 5 hour project done is Wednesday afternoon because I have to complete X, Y and Z first." Major caveat: my firm was super chill about assigning stuff to summers.

I am being paid but much less than normal associates. The majority of summers in the past few years have been hired, but they have a problem keeping associates around. The firm is trying to recruit new and young talent from what I've heard and can tell. I have one partner who was described as "someone to go to" if I have "general" questions, so maybe I could go to him with this concern. Again, this firm is so unorganized it's hard to determine what to do/who to go to with anything.

No one works nights and weekends from what I've seen. Partners leave at 5:30 every day. One partner told the summers the expectation is 8:30-5 every day. Associates have an 1800 hour requirement. A few partners told us they would rather us take longer and produce better work product than finish things quicker, but I get the feeling that partners are rushing me when they give me assignments. Maybe I'm just not adjusted yet...

Do firms usually keep track of assignments given to summers? (I wish this firm did...)

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Re: Is it okay to say "no" as an SA?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 07, 2017 1:10 am

foregetaboutdre wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
foregetaboutdre wrote:What's your vibe from the firm? I'm in a similar sized firm. First day at my firm during orientation partners said to be open about work etc.. if you're too busy to let them know, if you need work just ask.

If you're at some like ID sweatshop or something, you probably can't say no w/o pissing them off. The good thing is that you're continuing to get work. Do you have an associate/mentor to talk to?


I just want to say that I summered at a biglaw firm last year. At orientation, we were told that we should be upfront about when we have multiple assignments that we were working on and learn how to say no to associates (since apparently it would be good practice for when we started as juniors). Despite that and also despite having finished many more assignments than was expected or necessary, the fact that I rejected a couple assignments came up at my end-of-summer review and actually was an issue. Still got an offer and generally am happy about where I'm going, however. But if I could do it over again, I would have just done everything I was asked to do, since I foreclosed the opportunity to work with some seniors.


I'd agree with this. If someone new comes up to you or a bigshot partner and offers you work...don't say no (in most cases). It generally means they specifically thought about you and went out of their way to give you work.

I've heard about the more "powerful" partners, so I'll be sure to avoid saying no to their assignments at all costs. One gave me two assignments today and told me "I'll find more for you," but he appears to have no knowledge of all the assignments I have already.

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Re: Is it okay to say "no" as an SA?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 07, 2017 1:11 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:You work at a 30 person firm with a few summers? I would like to know more: (1) Are they paying you, and (2) are you trying/likely to get a job offer out of this? If they are trying to recruit associate through their summer program, they are going about it in a strange way (generally firms are much nicer to their summers to lure them in). If it's not a situation where you are afraid that complaining is going to get you no-offered I would definitely start saying no.

If you need a more delicate approach consider firm politics. Do you have somebody (like an assigned partner mentor) that you can go to with this concern? Or, perhaps, (I used this move during my summer) are you working on a project for another scarier partner so you can say something to the effect of, "Hey I'd love to work on this but I'm doing a project for Dick Bills-A-Lot (hopefully someone more powerful than the person currently trying to give you an assignment), who needs it tomorrow, and it's currently consuming all my available bandwidth."

Also, what are the expectations regarding hours? Does everyone work nights and weekends? If you are really and truly swamped by the standards of your firm (i.e. already exceeding the expected hours), I think it's fine to tell partners what you are working on and say like "the earliest I can get another 5 hour project done is Wednesday afternoon because I have to complete X, Y and Z first." Major caveat: my firm was super chill about assigning stuff to summers.

I am being paid but much less than normal associates. The majority of summers in the past few years have been hired, but they have a problem keeping associates around. The firm is trying to recruit new and young talent from what I've heard and can tell. I have one partner who was described as "someone to go to" if I have "general" questions, so maybe I could go to him with this concern. Again, this firm is so unorganized it's hard to determine what to do/who to go to with anything.

No one works nights and weekends from what I've seen. Partners leave at 5:30 every day. One partner told the summers the expectation is 8:30-5 every day. Associates have an 1800 hour requirement. A few partners told us they would rather us take longer and produce better work product than finish things quicker, but I get the feeling that partners are rushing me when they give me assignments. Maybe I'm just not adjusted yet...

Do firms usually keep track of assignments given to summers? (I wish this firm did...)


Larger firms are very good about having a centralized system of keeping track of summer assignments, assignment coordinators, and making sure people aren't being overworked (Unless it's Cravath). For smaller firms like yours, your experience doesn't sound atypical. I mean, the summer program should be better run, but honestly, all the lawyers know about you is probably that "So and so is a summer, feel free to give out assignments". You should definitely communicate if you already have too much on your plate, because they probably don't actually know.

Honestly, if the pay is decent, the lifestyle sounds pretty good. Try to get an offer.

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Re: Is it okay to say "no" as an SA?

Postby LurkerTurnedMember » Wed Jun 07, 2017 1:15 am

It depends on how sure you are they are actually going to hire a SA at the end of the summer. Do you know the past hiring practices of your firm from your school's career services? My understanding is that with smaller firms about 50 or less), the rules are different from biglaw. Biglaw firms are expected to hire every SA at the end while giving them made up work during the summer to keep them busy in between extravagant perks. Small firms have a small class sizes and they don't feel as much pressure to hire everyone, with less perks but more substantial work over the summer. So it could be the case that your firm might not hire all of you over the summer so anything seen as rocking the boat might decrease your chances at getting an offer.

My take: You should talk to your mentor there if they gave you one about managing the projects. Mentors tend to be younger associates you could talk to about stuff you can't talk about with partners. If you don't have one, then I would bring up your work load when you're asking them about the deadline, not to say "hey I have a lot to do already" but to say "given these other tasks before me, when would you like me to finish yours." If they see you have a lot on your plate they might go to someone new (especially if they see a project by a higher ranked person).

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Re: Is it okay to say "no" as an SA?

Postby rpupkin » Wed Jun 07, 2017 2:16 am

Yes, it's okay. It's much better to say "no" than it is to say "yes" and then turn in poor work product as a result.

No one will care (or even remember) that you said you were too busy to work on something. But folks will definitely remember if you submit lousy work.

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Re: Is it okay to say "no" as an SA?

Postby ur_hero » Wed Jun 07, 2017 3:50 am

What are your hours like as a result of this? I think you should do what you have to in order to ensure an offer (assuming that's a possibility). Even if you end up not wanting to stay, you're gonna want options as you approach graduation.

If you can, grind it out and produce amazing work for everyone. I feel like it's important to take as many opportunities to produce good work product as possible, and make an initial impression that you are the associate to go to, eager, willing to learn, etc. etc. etc. If you can establish this reputation from the start, I believe you'll be much more empowered/confident when it comes to your relationships and work flow from various partners (including the freedom to say "no" without seeming incapable or unreliable).

If this isn't realistic or makes you simply miserable, figure out the best persons to inform that you won't be able to get to their assignments until later. If it's urgent and you're very clear about your availability, they'll figure something else out. If you truly are too busy doing other things (and doing them well), this shouldn't hurt you that much absent a wrong-person, wrong-time scenario.

[Just as an aside, I figure no Partners are coming to a summer for work they absolutely need done by you. It's not necessarily busy work or made-up, but it's probably not as crucial/important/urgent as they are conveying. They most likely have go-to-associates that would crank it out in a fraction of the time. They are giving you an opportunity to demonstrate value and/or testing you out most likely.]

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Re: Is it okay to say "no" as an SA?

Postby TheSpanishMain » Wed Jun 07, 2017 9:50 am

I said "no" plenty as a summer and got an offer. As long as you truly are too busy, it's fine. It's much better to decline work than it is to turn in something half assed.

Just be smart and tactful about it. Don't say you're too busy to do something and then let everyone see you dipping out of the office at 4.

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Re: Is it okay to say "no" as an SA?

Postby PeanutsNJam » Wed Jun 07, 2017 10:52 am

This firm is having a summer draft a MSJ?

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Re: Is it okay to say "no" as an SA?

Postby jchiles » Wed Jun 07, 2017 12:20 pm

An 1800 billable requirement does not equal 8:30-5 even if you take no vacation.

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Re: Is it okay to say "no" as an SA?

Postby Lacepiece23 » Wed Jun 07, 2017 12:24 pm

jchiles wrote:An 1800 billable requirement does not equal 8:30-5 even if you take no vacation.


I think OP said that was the requirement for summers. Attorney's probably work like 8 or 8:30 to 5:30/6. If litigation, that's not all that unrealistic especially if you're getting depos, in court stuff, and billing for travel.

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Re: Is it okay to say "no" as an SA?

Postby foregetaboutdre » Wed Jun 07, 2017 12:30 pm

PeanutsNJam wrote:This firm is having a summer draft a MSJ?


I had the same initial thought. I know firm websites mention this as SA work example, but given its nature makes me think the firm NEEDS OP to do a shit ton of work.

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Re: Is it okay to say "no" as an SA?

Postby 2014 » Wed Jun 07, 2017 5:16 pm

Yes, it's OK but it also sounds like one late evening would be very helpful for you to rip through the long-term assignments. Same thing happens as an associate, you lose many/most days to little ASAP shit and are left with evenings and weekends once things quiet down to progress on less urgent things. Wouldn't do an all nighter or anything or skip any firm-sponsored social event but one or two late nights as a summer won't be a big deal.

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Re: Is it okay to say "no" as an SA?

Postby lolwat » Wed Jun 07, 2017 5:18 pm

rpupkin wrote:Yes, it's okay. It's much better to say "no" than it is to say "yes" and then turn in poor work product as a result.

No one will care (or even remember) that you said you were too busy to work on something. But folks will definitely remember if you submit lousy work.


I'd say generally true especially that you don't want to turn in poor work product, but who knows at OP's firm whether it's okay to say "no" given the circumstances.

In any event, there's a difference between giving a vibe of "no, fuck off and stop trying to give me more work" versus "hey, I'd love to work on this, but I'm already doing projects for X Y Z who needed them done in an hour/later today; given that, I think I could get this done by xxx tomorrow, would that work?" or whatever "soft" no you can come up with that doesn't turn people off from giving you work later or having it be an issue at the end of the summer.

Besides that, though, I skimmed this thread and saw OP's firm tells its summers about some 8:30-5 expectation... most attorneys tend to work more than that so if you have assignments that are due "tomorrow" rather than "in an hour" you should just stay a little later each day and complete them.

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Re: Is it okay to say "no" as an SA?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 07, 2017 5:22 pm

foregetaboutdre wrote:
PeanutsNJam wrote:This firm is having a summer draft a MSJ?


I had the same initial thought. I know firm websites mention this as SA work example, but given its nature makes me think the firm NEEDS OP to do a shit ton of work.


I work at a lit boutique. We give our summers motions and such to draft.

We pay them market though, so we're not OP's firm.

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Re: Is it okay to say "no" as an SA?

Postby rpupkin » Wed Jun 07, 2017 5:23 pm

lolwat wrote:
rpupkin wrote:Yes, it's okay. It's much better to say "no" than it is to say "yes" and then turn in poor work product as a result.

No one will care (or even remember) that you said you were too busy to work on something. But folks will definitely remember if you submit lousy work.


I'd say generally true especially that you don't want to turn in poor work product, but who knows at OP's firm whether it's okay to say "no" given the circumstances.

If a firm doesn't have a central coordinator for its summer associates--if firm lawyers just give SAs assignments when/if they feel like it--then it has to be okay for the SA to say "no." In fact, the summer program is running on the assumption that the SA will turn down (or at least defer) work if there's too much on the SA's plate. How could it be otherwise?

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Re: Is it okay to say "no" as an SA?

Postby PeanutsNJam » Wed Jun 07, 2017 5:28 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
foregetaboutdre wrote:
PeanutsNJam wrote:This firm is having a summer draft a MSJ?


I had the same initial thought. I know firm websites mention this as SA work example, but given its nature makes me think the firm NEEDS OP to do a shit ton of work.


I work at a lit boutique. We give our summers motions and such to draft.

We pay them market though, so we're not OP's firm.


You give your summers MSJs? Not all motions are equal. Must be super confident in your summers to let them draft dispositive motions.

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Re: Is it okay to say "no" as an SA?

Postby lolwat » Wed Jun 07, 2017 5:49 pm

If a firm doesn't have a central coordinator for its summer associates--if firm lawyers just give SAs assignments when/if they feel like it--then it has to be okay for the SA to say "no." In fact, the summer program is running on the assumption that the SA will turn down (or at least defer) work if there's too much on the SA's plate. How could it be otherwise?


Yeah, to some extent, but there's a delicate balance to when the SA should start turning down work and how they should go about doing so. I guess it just requires a more nuanced answer than "Yes, it's okay" or "No, it's not okay."

PeanutsNJam wrote:You give your summers MSJs? Not all motions are equal. Must be super confident in your summers to let them draft dispositive motions.


Well, considering at most firms a dispositive motion like a MSJ would go through like 3 other attorneys for review before getting filed I don't think it says that much to give summers the first crack at it.

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Re: Is it okay to say "no" as an SA?

Postby Lacepiece23 » Wed Jun 07, 2017 6:09 pm

lolwat wrote:
If a firm doesn't have a central coordinator for its summer associates--if firm lawyers just give SAs assignments when/if they feel like it--then it has to be okay for the SA to say "no." In fact, the summer program is running on the assumption that the SA will turn down (or at least defer) work if there's too much on the SA's plate. How could it be otherwise?


Yeah, to some extent, but there's a delicate balance to when the SA should start turning down work and how they should go about doing so. I guess it just requires a more nuanced answer than "Yes, it's okay" or "No, it's not okay."

PeanutsNJam wrote:You give your summers MSJs? Not all motions are equal. Must be super confident in your summers to let them draft dispositive motions.


Well, considering at most firms a dispositive motion like a MSJ would go through like 3 other attorneys for review before getting filed I don't think it says that much to give summers the first crack at it.


It depends? Are you turning down work because you don't want to stay late a couple of nights or are you turning down work because of you don't you'll be there until 2 in the am
Every night. I wouldn't turn down work if it's just meant a few late nights.



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