Advice for requesting work - Stub year

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ughbugchugplug

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Advice for requesting work - Stub year

Postby ughbugchugplug » Mon Dec 11, 2017 3:17 pm

Hi all, I'd appreciate some collective wisdom. I'm a litigation stub. I have a decent amount of work, but the work flow is that some days I bill nothing and others I bill around 9-10 hours. My firm has a centralized assignment system, so normally I should just sit tight and wait for work to be given to me. However, I haven't gotten anything sent my way in a bit, and get all my work from one relatively busy pro bono matter.

What I'm wondering is whether I should reach out for more, or just chill. I know I should be enjoying my stub time and not rushing to get busy, but it feels weird to only do pro bono. I had two other matters that were billed to clients, but they were short term, so my role in them died a natural death. Most other people in my group are in a similar boat, but I wonder if I should be more proactive.

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jkpolk

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Re: Advice for requesting work - Stub year

Postby jkpolk » Mon Dec 11, 2017 3:23 pm

ughbugchugplug wrote:Hi all, I'd appreciate some collective wisdom. I'm a litigation stub. I have a decent amount of work, but the work flow is that some days I bill nothing and others I bill around 9-10 hours. My firm has a centralized assignment system, so normally I should just sit tight and wait for work to be given to me. However, I haven't gotten anything sent my way in a bit, and get all my work from one relatively busy pro bono matter.

What I'm wondering is whether I should reach out for more, or just chill. I know I should be enjoying my stub time and not rushing to get busy, but it feels weird to only do pro bono. I had two other matters that were billed to clients, but they were short term, so my role in them died a natural death. Most other people in my group are in a similar boat, but I wonder if I should be more proactive.

I wouldnt poke the sleeping work bear until at least January.

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beepboopbeep

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Re: Advice for requesting work - Stub year

Postby beepboopbeep » Mon Dec 11, 2017 4:32 pm

The chillness of stub year is wasted on stub years

Everyone says to enjoy it and no one can because they're all like "ahh but i should be doing important work am i not valued by the firm?? what if i don't make hours?? what if i get behind on experience compared to my class year??" but it doesn't matter because you're a stub year and you probably can't do anything yet anyway. And you'll be wishing to return to this level of busyness in a year, guaranteed.

You are much better served using the extra time to make sure everything you actually do work on is pristine while you still have the time/ability to do so. Some of the best advice I got in my first year, that I unfortunately didn't really understand until I had fucked some stuff up, is that a reputation for doing consistent, trustworthy work is more valuable at this stage than your pure hours output. Obviously both is better but that will come; worry about first things first.

ughbugchugplug

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Re: Advice for requesting work - Stub year

Postby ughbugchugplug » Mon Dec 11, 2017 5:14 pm

beepboopbeep wrote:The chillness of stub year is wasted on stub years

Everyone says to enjoy it and no one can because they're all like "ahh but i should be doing important work am i not valued by the firm?? what if i don't make hours?? what if i get behind on experience compared to my class year??" but it doesn't matter because you're a stub year and you probably can't do anything yet anyway. And you'll be wishing to return to this level of busyness in a year, guaranteed.

You are much better served using the extra time to make sure everything you actually do work on is pristine while you still have the time/ability to do so. Some of the best advice I got in my first year, that I unfortunately didn't really understand until I had fucked some stuff up, is that a reputation for doing consistent, trustworthy work is more valuable at this stage than your pure hours output. Obviously both is better but that will come; worry about first things first.


Thanks to both of you for your advice. I recognize what you're saying, sounds like I just need to internalize it. In my case, I'm leaving next year for a clerkship so I want to make a good impression to increase my likelihood of being rehired. But that sounds a lot like worrying about being behind on hours and probably is subject to the same response.

One of the advantages of the low hours is that I take twice as long as I normally would on everything to make it good. I was worried about falling behind on experience, but maybe the value I'm getting is becoming used to doing things to the standard you're talking about. Thanks!

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Re: Advice for requesting work - Stub year

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 11, 2017 6:48 pm

Does the equation change if you're in an open market system? I always feel like I should be asking for work, though no one has mentioned anything to me for low hours yet. I had like 150 in October and then just 50 in November so this stresses me out. I know for a fact that at least one other stub has gotten check-in calls from their mentor encouraging them to pick up the pace and ask around for more work (after presumably looking at his hours report). Might just be that this partner is overenthhuiastic, or might be that my own is too busy/doesn't care.

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Re: Advice for requesting work - Stub year

Postby ur_hero » Mon Dec 11, 2017 8:24 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Does the equation change if you're in an open market system? I always feel like I should be asking for work, though no one has mentioned anything to me for low hours yet. I had like 150 in October and then just 50 in November so this stresses me out. I know for a fact that at least one other stub has gotten check-in calls from their mentor encouraging them to pick up the pace and ask around for more work (after presumably looking at his hours report). Might just be that this partner is overenthhuiastic, or might be that my own is too busy/doesn't care.


The answer is PROBABLY that your partner is too busy, doesn't care, or is just waiting for the right kind of work to give a first-year.

Billing 150 in Oct., and 50 in Nov. of your stub year is completely normal and perfectly acceptable. It's probably more than many do bill. Just stay visible during normal office hours, check-in if anyone needs anything occasionally (don't pester), and do exactly as you're told when you do get an assignment and really make it look good/polished (or ask a senior associate how it should be done for that partner). Be enthusiastic/eager, but don't overdo it....Be likeable.

You don't need to grind for hours yet, as they do not matter at all so long as you're available and doing good work when you get the chance. What will really count is how you do work when people actually need something from you, and how you are to work with. Don't turn down work unless you're already maxed out, but you certainly don't have to beat yourself up over not billing 160+ in your stub year - unless maybe you get stub year bonuses at your firm? OR if your firm's billable/fiscal year starts in Oct/Nov (as opposed to Jan-Dec)?

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Re: Advice for requesting work - Stub year

Postby jd20132013 » Mon Dec 11, 2017 9:40 pm

if u are slow in January request work. Not before

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Re: Advice for requesting work - Stub year

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Dec 12, 2017 11:33 pm

Senior associate perspective (I'm at a firm with centralized assignment coordination for juniors): I totally disagree with the advice in these threads telling stubs to avoid asking for work until January, IF the stub is serious about growing their career in a biglaw environment. (If, of course, the stub is hanging in for the paycheck and doesn't want to do any more work than necessary, then by all means don't ask until January.)

Here's why I think that stubs should consider asking (and not just asking once and running back to their offices, but being persistent about seeking work from the people they want to work with):

First and foremost, you get to seek out the type of work you want to do. Assuming you succeed in getting work, the magic of this concept is simple: when you are busy with good work you want to do, you get to turn down all of the work you find less interesting and don't want to do. This principle is especially important during the junior associate years when you've got to proactively try to get substantive work and avoid mindless grunt tasks.

Second, you start building relationships with the partners (and to a lesser extent, senior associates) you've determined that you want to work for. (And for folks billing 50-100 hours per month, you've got plenty of time to do your due diligence and figure out whom those people are, both by subject matter and working style.) Make no mistake: we are all aware of what stubs get told about not overly exerting themselves until January, and someone who proactively seeks out work they're interested in before they "have to" for the sake of an hours requirement will make a good impression (as long as they deliver high quality work product.) Meanwhile, someone who quietly bills four hours, plays on the Internet, and rushes out the door at 5 PM is assuredly making an impression (even if we don't tell you that you are.)

Third, you get to start building a reputation early. Every partner and senior associate wants to work with the "good juniors." If you're busy and doing good work during your stub year, you're starting ahead of the eight-ball next January, when your colleagues who chilled and billed 15 hours a week are unknowns. You've got 2-3 months more practical experience than they do (which, in the first year, matters significantly) and you've now got people who worked with you, were impressed with your work, and are going to ask for you again. In turn, you have learned more than your lackadaisical counterparts about who YOU want to work with, which empowers you to start angling to work with the "good" partners and senior associates, however you define that.

The people who succeed in biglaw and are happy in biglaw are those who proactively chart their own course. They build relationships with the partners and clients they want; they articulate the types of matters they want to work on and chase after them. They then do awesome work, are in demand for the most substantive tasks available to people of their year, and have enough work that they can turn down the partners they don't want to work for or the matters they don't want to work on. And their reputation and experience snowballs. It's your call whether you want to take that approach to biglaw, or else just hang in for the paycheck until you burn out or get kicked out.

jd20132013

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Re: Advice for requesting work - Stub year

Postby jd20132013 » Wed Dec 13, 2017 12:51 am

If you're suggesting a dichotomy between pursuing partnership and hanging in for the paycheck then only a broken person chooses the former

Edit: and if you aren't drawing so stark a dichotomy--if you're also envisioning the person who wants to last more than 2 years but has no interest in being senior-this isn't necessary. If they bill their quota and don't mess things up they can get to four years and lateral out without asking for work as a stub

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Re: Advice for requesting work - Stub year

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 13, 2017 1:08 am

jd20132013 wrote:If you're suggesting a dichotomy between pursuing partnership and hanging in for the paycheck then only a broken person chooses the former

Edit: and if you aren't drawing so stark a dichotomy--if you're also envisioning the person who wants to last more than 2 years but has no interest in being senior-this isn't necessary. If they bill their quota and don't mess things up they can get to four years and lateral out without asking for work as a stub


Is lateral success dependent on the level of substantive experience you get during those 4 years? Or is a 4th year just a 4th year and there's no meaningful differentiation?

Would it be valuable to follow sr associate anon's advice just so you can build a strong network/reputation and get better experience even if you don't plan on partnership?

jd20132013

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Re: Advice for requesting work - Stub year

Postby jd20132013 » Wed Dec 13, 2017 1:10 am

U can build a great reputation by taking your stub gear to learn the works and then going gangbusters in your first real year.

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RedGiant

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Re: Advice for requesting work - Stub year

Postby RedGiant » Wed Dec 13, 2017 1:27 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Is lateral success dependent on the level of substantive experience you get during those 4 years? Or is a 4th year just a 4th year and there's no meaningful differentiation?

Would it be valuable to follow sr associate anon's advice just so you can build a strong network/reputation and get better experience even if you don't plan on partnership?


I was a transactional paralegal for a lot of years before I went to law school. I assure you that not all laterals, and not all fourth years, are the same. Laterals flame out very quickly if they aren't up to snuff. I promise, we (and your other colleagues) can tell if you don't know your $hit. It's perfectly OK not to know substantive law, but it's not OK not to know how to run a deal, a closing or what's market, if you claimed to have worked on so many deals. Being "behind" your class year is a quick ticket out of biglaw. They don't keep those laterals around long. Promise.

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Re: Advice for requesting work - Stub year

Postby 2014 » Fri Dec 15, 2017 12:44 pm

If you do follow the senior's advice above (which i'm not saying is wrong, it's just targeted to people who want to set themselves up to be at the top of their class rather the alternatives of sticking with-class or under the radar/here for the paycheck and early exit), be careful not to be too annoying about requesting work. This time of year headcount is at an annual peak and work is generally slower than at other times except for deals or cases trying to jam out documents or filings before the end of the year/holiday slow down. It's arguably worse to be overzealous with pestering seniors who legitimately have nothing to put you on than it is to just accept work as it comes. I would view the former as "not getting it".

Right now I have a junior who does consistently good work and indicates interest and willingness to help out in 95% the right way but stops by my office approximately twice a day to ask if there's anything for her to do and it's unfortunate because it (fairly or not) partially sours the other 95%.

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Re: Advice for requesting work - Stub year

Postby Saltnpeppa1 » Mon Dec 18, 2017 5:46 pm

I agree with the two seemingly-senior associates' posts above. I don't know why you wouldn't hustle a little bit to get some work in your stub year. If you do, you can possibly get a jump on others in your class on work you find interesting and/or start to build relationships with partners controlling work flows.

When partners didn't have billable work, I asked if they needed help with any presentations/publications (when I had availability), which I think helped me get in the door with some interesting billable work down the line. Not to mention the fact that partners were willing to train me through non-billable work because I was showing an interest and helping them. I figured I would rather get a jump on some areas rather than sit in an office twiddling my thumbs.

Although, this may not apply to all different practices that involve similar type of work.



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