Biglaw: What's something first year associates get wrong or don't know, that they shouldn't?

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Re: Biglaw: What's something first year associates get wrong or don't know, that they shouldn't?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Apr 21, 2020 1:52 pm

Re turning down work, what matters most is who you're turning down. If it's a rainmaker, saying no is generally a dumb idea unless you're totally swamped and a more important rainmaker will cover for you. If it's a midlevel, feel free (sure, he could become an important source of work but it's far more likely he'll leave the firm in 2-3 years anyway).

Also, from what I've observed, mediocre associates who routinely turn down work can easily make it to years 7-8 while getting paid the same as someone gunning for partner. There's little reward for billing >2000 annually unless you actually want to be a partner.

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Re: Biglaw: What's something first year associates get wrong or don't know, that they shouldn't?

Post by wwwcol » Tue Apr 21, 2020 4:12 pm

Don’t send long emails unless absolutely necessary, especially if it’s a chain with a bunch of people. The less you say, the less likely you are to say something wrong or confusing

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Re: Biglaw: What's something first year associates get wrong or don't know, that they shouldn't?

Post by beepboopbeep » Tue Apr 21, 2020 6:50 pm

wwwcol wrote:Don’t send long emails unless absolutely necessary, especially if it’s a chain with a bunch of people. The less you say, the less likely you are to say something wrong or confusing
This isn't wrong, but it does feel like the kind of advice that can lead people astray. People certainly value economical writing. But that goal shouldn't get in the way of being thorough and exploring everything that needs to be explored to get a definitive answer on a question, if it's the type of question that needs more space to answer definitively -- which many questions in biglaw are.

My experience was that many of my most valued contributions at the first/second year level were lengthy emails that just completely resolved some area of the case at a given time. What's our best evidence on X and where are the gaps. You often don't know what the end product is going to look like when someone asks you to run down, e.g., the best documents on Y or Z issue, because it depends on what's there -- you may not have much, in which case it might be a couple bullet points summarizing those documents and maybe a short paragraph proposing next steps, or you might have a lot but no client appetite for a formal memo, in which case a long email makes more sense. So instead of don't write long emails unless absolutely necessary, my advice would be more like call whoever gave you the assignment and ask what they're expecting, as some people have advised more generally earlier ITT.

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Re: Biglaw: What's something first year associates get wrong or don't know, that they shouldn't?

Post by ghostoftraynor » Tue Apr 21, 2020 7:36 pm

beepboopbeep wrote:
wwwcol wrote:Don’t send long emails unless absolutely necessary, especially if it’s a chain with a bunch of people. The less you say, the less likely you are to say something wrong or confusing
This isn't wrong, but it does feel like the kind of advice that can lead people astray. People certainly value economical writing. But that goal shouldn't get in the way of being thorough and exploring everything that needs to be explored to get a definitive answer on a question, if it's the type of question that needs more space to answer definitively -- which many questions in biglaw are.

My experience was that many of my most valued contributions at the first/second year level were lengthy emails that just completely resolved some area of the case at a given time. What's our best evidence on X and where are the gaps. You often don't know what the end product is going to look like when someone asks you to run down, e.g., the best documents on Y or Z issue, because it depends on what's there -- you may not have much, in which case it might be a couple bullet points summarizing those documents and maybe a short paragraph proposing next steps, or you might have a lot but no client appetite for a formal memo, in which case a long email makes more sense. So instead of don't write long emails unless absolutely necessary, my advice would be more like call whoever gave you the assignment and ask what they're expecting, as some people have advised more generally earlier ITT.
I'd say definitely err on the side of short. Long emails happen plenty and are often appropriate, but juniors often err on writing way too much. And, organization is also key. Bullets and sub-bullets often reduce text and, even if not, are a lot easier to digest than long paragraphs.

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Re: Biglaw: What's something first year associates get wrong or don't know, that they shouldn't?

Post by The Lsat Airbender » Wed Apr 22, 2020 10:46 am

As with most good writing, the solution is probably to get all your thoughts down and then prune it for human consumption.

A subtle thing that makes you way less annoying is to get the gist of your email into the first 10-15 words when possible. That way people can get the point from the notification on their computer/phone. (Subject lines are supposed to do this but you're often at the mercy of "RE: FW: Anyone can help w this???")

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Re: Biglaw: What's something first year associates get wrong or don't know, that they shouldn't?

Post by LBJ's Hair » Wed Apr 22, 2020 11:58 am

I agree with above posters on brevity, organization, and bulleting. Especially bullets.

My tip: If you're writing a fairly substantive email, start with an introduction, like a ~2 sentence summary explaining why you're writing the email and what the key take-aways are. You don't want to leave the important stuff for the end; no one wants to read that far.

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Re: Biglaw: What's something first year associates get wrong or don't know, that they shouldn't?

Post by beepboopbeep » Wed Apr 22, 2020 3:17 pm

LBJ's Hair wrote:I agree with above posters on brevity, organization, and bulleting. Especially bullets.

My tip: If you're writing a fairly substantive email, start with an introduction, like a ~2 sentence summary explaining why you're writing the email and what the key take-aways are. You don't want to leave the important stuff for the end; no one wants to read that far.
Yea, totally agreed with this and the above (especially re: bullets). I don't meant to say don't be economical. I just felt like I got into trouble early thinking "I should write short emails" -- as that was some of the consistent advice given to juniors at the firm I started at -- and let that get in the way of exploring the substance fully. Time and place for both.

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Re: Biglaw: What's something first year associates get wrong or don't know, that they shouldn't?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Apr 22, 2020 3:42 pm

I've had trouble with time pressures and wondered if TLS could help. For example, I worked with a senior partner (on the east coast) several months ago who told me (on a Monday) to free my calendar Tuesday-Thursday because he was going to be in CA taking depositions and needs me in real time to research things that come up during the depositions. I was able to reserve those days just for him. However, when he'd text me questions, I had trouble doing the research. I never knew if I was taking too long and how deep of a dive I should take knowing on one hand, he needs the answer ASAP, but on the other hand, there might be contrary law out there that I need to find. I used to refer to this as "unspoken time pressure" because he never told me that I was taking too long but I didn't know how to gauge the allocation of time for this type of project. I would try to get it done as fast as possible but then I'd worry that I'm missing things.

I can imagine this happens in the corporate setting also. A deal is blowing up and the senior partner asks the first year to research a certain issue. How is the first year supposed to gauge how long to spend on that task? The unspoken time pressure comes back because on the one hand, the deal is live and the partner needs the answer ASAP, but on the other hand, the associate needs to make sure that his answer is right before submitting it to the senior partner.

How are young associates supposed to deal with this? I chalked it up to not being fit for biglaw.

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Re: Biglaw: What's something first year associates get wrong or don't know, that they shouldn't?

Post by 4LTsPointingNorth » Wed Apr 22, 2020 4:14 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I've had trouble with time pressures and wondered if TLS could help. For example, I worked with a senior partner (on the east coast) several months ago who told me (on a Monday) to free my calendar Tuesday-Thursday because he was going to be in CA taking depositions and needs me in real time to research things that come up during the depositions. I was able to reserve those days just for him. However, when he'd text me questions, I had trouble doing the research. I never knew if I was taking too long and how deep of a dive I should take knowing on one hand, he needs the answer ASAP, but on the other hand, there might be contrary law out there that I need to find. I used to refer to this as "unspoken time pressure" because he never told me that I was taking too long but I didn't know how to gauge the allocation of time for this type of project. I would try to get it done as fast as possible but then I'd worry that I'm missing things.

I can imagine this happens in the corporate setting also. A deal is blowing up and the senior partner asks the first year to research a certain issue. How is the first year supposed to gauge how long to spend on that task? The unspoken time pressure comes back because on the one hand, the deal is live and the partner needs the answer ASAP, but on the other hand, the associate needs to make sure that his answer is right before submitting it to the senior partner.

How are young associates supposed to deal with this? I chalked it up to not being fit for biglaw.
"Here are my initial findings, which I'm sending now in the interest of time. Please let me know if there are any specific areas you would like for me to look into further."

Then just spend a few more minutes confirming that nothing you sent the partner is wrong or needs to be qualified/contextualized further. If no red flags, no need to follow up; if an update email is needed say, "I looked further into X and have updated my summary below in [different colored text]".

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Re: Biglaw: What's something first year associates get wrong or don't know, that they shouldn't?

Post by wwwcol » Wed Apr 22, 2020 5:45 pm

4LTsPointingNorth wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I've had trouble with time pressures and wondered if TLS could help. For example, I worked with a senior partner (on the east coast) several months ago who told me (on a Monday) to free my calendar Tuesday-Thursday because he was going to be in CA taking depositions and needs me in real time to research things that come up during the depositions. I was able to reserve those days just for him. However, when he'd text me questions, I had trouble doing the research. I never knew if I was taking too long and how deep of a dive I should take knowing on one hand, he needs the answer ASAP, but on the other hand, there might be contrary law out there that I need to find. I used to refer to this as "unspoken time pressure" because he never told me that I was taking too long but I didn't know how to gauge the allocation of time for this type of project. I would try to get it done as fast as possible but then I'd worry that I'm missing things.

I can imagine this happens in the corporate setting also. A deal is blowing up and the senior partner asks the first year to research a certain issue. How is the first year supposed to gauge how long to spend on that task? The unspoken time pressure comes back because on the one hand, the deal is live and the partner needs the answer ASAP, but on the other hand, the associate needs to make sure that his answer is right before submitting it to the senior partner.

How are young associates supposed to deal with this? I chalked it up to not being fit for biglaw.
"Here are my initial findings, which I'm sending now in the interest of time. Please let me know if there are any specific areas you would like for me to look into further."

Then just spend a few more minutes confirming that nothing you sent the partner is wrong or needs to be qualified/contextualized further. If no red flags, no need to follow up; if an update email is needed say, "I looked further into X and have updated my summary below in [different colored text]".
this is good.

another common mistake juniors make is not looking at the right sources first, especially for litigation. if you're tasked with researching a procedural issue in federal court, you should read (in this order) the text of the pertinent rule, Moore's Federal Practice, and Wright & Miller and the cases they cite. then you can go down the Westlaw rabbithole, but there's a good chance the treatises answered your question or gave you ideas about how to construct your westlaw search.

this is true of many practice areas. if you're looking at an antitrust issue, read the ABA antitrust treatise, areeda & hovenkamp on antitrust, etc. before you dive deep into a westlaw rabbithole. Rutter if you're dealing with a CA state law issue, etc.

Most of the issues biglawyers deal with have been dealt with at least hundreds of times before, and you just need to figure out how to locate those resources efficiently

also, and this is huge - if you're writing a brief on an obscure issue and you come across one or two opinions on point, pull the parties' briefs from westlaw or PACER. especially if a biglaw firm did the underlying briefing, there's a good chance they scoured the cases and found the relevant authority. if you're unable to find anything and the underlying briefs from the other cases also don't have good authority, you can have some level of confidence that other cases don't exist.

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Re: Biglaw: What's something first year associates get wrong or don't know, that they shouldn't?

Post by LBJ's Hair » Tue Apr 28, 2020 5:40 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I've had trouble with time pressures and wondered if TLS could help. For example, I worked with a senior partner (on the east coast) several months ago who told me (on a Monday) to free my calendar Tuesday-Thursday because he was going to be in CA taking depositions and needs me in real time to research things that come up during the depositions. I was able to reserve those days just for him. However, when he'd text me questions, I had trouble doing the research. I never knew if I was taking too long and how deep of a dive I should take knowing on one hand, he needs the answer ASAP, but on the other hand, there might be contrary law out there that I need to find. I used to refer to this as "unspoken time pressure" because he never told me that I was taking too long but I didn't know how to gauge the allocation of time for this type of project. I would try to get it done as fast as possible but then I'd worry that I'm missing things.

I can imagine this happens in the corporate setting also. A deal is blowing up and the senior partner asks the first year to research a certain issue. How is the first year supposed to gauge how long to spend on that task? The unspoken time pressure comes back because on the one hand, the deal is live and the partner needs the answer ASAP, but on the other hand, the associate needs to make sure that his answer is right before submitting it to the senior partner.

How are young associates supposed to deal with this? I chalked it up to not being fit for biglaw.
I agree with the other poster about using secondary sources and briefs.

Also, if you're not extensively using Boolean search terms, it'll make you orders-of-magnitude more efficient. ATLEAST, AND, OR, NOT, parentheticals, within, some piece of the statutory text or whatever in quotes ...

Before you start, spend a few minutes thinking about what you want and what set of terms and operators will capture the issue you're looking for, *and only that issue*. Then run the search, see what you get. If you don't find what you need, tweak/broaden it a bit, then run it again.

You want to be a little over-inclusive, but not a ton: If you're running a search and getting back 100+ cases, that's usually not a good search.

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