Advice for incoming associates w/ a remote start

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.
User avatar
floatie

Silver
Posts: 632
Joined: Fri Jul 29, 2016 3:39 pm

Advice for incoming associates w/ a remote start

Post by floatie » Sun Aug 23, 2020 11:56 pm

I'm joining a NYC firm that will be starting remotely in October, and I'm concerned about making sure I have a sufficient workflow given that I won't be able to reach out to anyone in person (my firm has an unassigned first year). We do have a workflow coordinator who reaches out when someone is looking for an extra associate, but a lot of people go outside of that process to look for work. Several of the partners and associates I worked with over the summer have since left the firm. Any advice on best ways to reach out to find out what's going on in the office, and best ways to get staffed? Thanks.

User avatar
4LTsPointingNorth

Bronze
Posts: 226
Joined: Tue Nov 18, 2014 9:17 am

Re: Advice for incoming associates w/ a remote start

Post by 4LTsPointingNorth » Mon Aug 24, 2020 12:07 am

If you're starting in a firm that has an October start then you already have less to worry about because that signals good financial health for that firm.

Even in normal times, stub year associates aren't expected to generate their own hours.

That said, let the staffing coordinator know when you have capacity to take on more work so you can put yourself at the front of their list. If you work on a matter with a more senior person and enjoy (or can at least tolerate) working with them, then let that person know that you'd love to work with them again on another matter.

Make a good impression on whatever you do get staffed on, because a lot of times entire teams can get re-staffed on new matters if the seniors are happy with the previous performance of the juniors just because the timing makes that the path of least resistance.

Anonymous User
Posts: 351250
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Advice for incoming associates w/ a remote start

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Aug 24, 2020 2:03 am

I'm not OP but want to tack onto their questions.

1. How much of a "reset" is starting as an associate? Will people remember every screw up that I had as a summer? I had one minor screw up for an associate that mentally and physically checked out of the firm right after so my sense is that it didn't really get spread around, but people talk so... I don't really know if it did. Otherwise, I had a reputation for being super diligent. I don't know where it came from, but it existed and it was notable. I'm not trying to brag on myself. I don't care if people don't think of me as some super star, but I would really prefer to not have people think of me as a moron or as non-responsive or something like that.

2. What should be the pace for asking for work? Do I email a bunch of people at once or just 2-3, get definitive answers, and then 2-3 more? I assume that it's better to err toward fewer matters but having enough bandwidth to be responsive and outputting quality work than to just start drinking from a fire hydrant (I'm at a firm where there's reason to think that that can happen very easily by accident), but that obviously has to balanced against not ramping up so slowly that it draws negative attention, which could put me in a precarious position in this economy.

3. Are there any general tips with regard remote starts? What behaviors have TLS associates found to be annoying or helpful in their colleagues so far with regard to remote work?

attorney589753

New
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Mar 19, 2020 12:42 pm

Re: Advice for incoming associates w/ a remote start

Post by attorney589753 » Mon Aug 24, 2020 9:30 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Aug 24, 2020 2:03 am
I'm not OP but want to tack onto their questions.

1. How much of a "reset" is starting as an associate? Will people remember every screw up that I had as a summer? I had one minor screw up for an associate that mentally and physically checked out of the firm right after so my sense is that it didn't really get spread around, but people talk so... I don't really know if it did. Otherwise, I had a reputation for being super diligent. I don't know where it came from, but it existed and it was notable. I'm not trying to brag on myself. I don't care if people don't think of me as some super star, but I would really prefer to not have people think of me as a moron or as non-responsive or something like that.

2. What should be the pace for asking for work? Do I email a bunch of people at once or just 2-3, get definitive answers, and then 2-3 more? I assume that it's better to err toward fewer matters but having enough bandwidth to be responsive and outputting quality work than to just start drinking from a fire hydrant (I'm at a firm where there's reason to think that that can happen very easily by accident), but that obviously has to balanced against not ramping up so slowly that it draws negative attention, which could put me in a precarious position in this economy.

3. Are there any general tips with regard remote starts? What behaviors have TLS associates found to be annoying or helpful in their colleagues so far with regard to remote work?
I don't think you have anything to worry about. For a summer or first year associates, mistakes are going to happen. If you had a reputation for being good and working hard, then one mistake as a summer associate is not going to tank your reputation. The way it generally works at my firm is word spreads around, but pretty informally among mids and seniors -- maybe casually coming up in conversation. People are generally going to trust their first hand experience (you seemed diligent when working together) over a one-off comment from someone else. Where things get bad is if someone performs really horribly (not just a "he/she was OK" but "they were awful") or if you build up a reputation, because if multiple people tell me someone has issues, then I might even second guess my evaluation of them.

In terms of asking for work, I think that probably depends firm-by-firm. But in my experience (this is corporate BTW), at any level, I've generally only put one or two feelers out there at a time. At my firm people will typically get back to you within a day or two if they have something active going on that needs staffing. Also, keeping in mind what I said before, at a big law firm it's typically pretty easy to come back from a month of low hours (heck, it may be "normal" [esp. in something like M&A] to have a 120 hour month and then a 250 hour month), but difficult to come back from a bad reputation. You should try to avoid having so much work on your plate that it interferes with your quality or responsiveness. Obviously this requires common sense too (if you've had two weeks with no active projects, or you keep coming under hours, you need to take on more) but it is a lot easier to add more work if you have a good rep.

I do think working remote causes challenges for incoming associates, although also caveat that everyone is in the same boat. I'd recommend investing in a good home office setup. For me, basically the same things that made a junior good before -- attitude, attention to detail, responsiveness, intelligence -- still holds true with remote work. Probably easier to do all that stuff if you are well-equipped at home.

snehpets

Silver
Posts: 1156
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2011 1:26 pm

Re: Advice for incoming associates w/ a remote start

Post by snehpets » Mon Aug 24, 2020 11:16 am

floatie wrote:
Sun Aug 23, 2020 11:56 pm
I'm joining a NYC firm that will be starting remotely in October, and I'm concerned about making sure I have a sufficient workflow given that I won't be able to reach out to anyone in person (my firm has an unassigned first year). We do have a workflow coordinator who reaches out when someone is looking for an extra associate, but a lot of people go outside of that process to look for work. Several of the partners and associates I worked with over the summer have since left the firm. Any advice on best ways to reach out to find out what's going on in the office, and best ways to get staffed? Thanks.
Is this based on your experience as a summer, or what you saw or heard from actual associates? If the former, I wouldn't view that as representative - being a summer associate doesn't have much in common with being a "real" associate. I worked on at least 15 different matters when I was a summer, and then when I started at a firm I worked on 2-3 for the entire first year. I also didn't work with any of the same people when I came back.

If this really is the associate experience and not just a summer thing, then I agree with the prior reply - if you have free time, politely reach out to the staffing coordinator. Frame it like you're trying to be helpful in keeping them updated, not that you're worried or demanding they find you work. I don't think it's going to be a big issue, though - if you're starting in October, they have work.

1. How much of a "reset" is starting as an associate?
I can count on one hand the number of summers who were bad enough that I remembered it when they came back, and not only were they *really* bad (not just normal summer associate bad), I only mentioned it to other associates when they were like, "have you ever worked with [summer associate]?! He's terrible." It's fairly uncommon for people to go out of their way to screw you over.

Also, everyone makes mistakes. Literally all the time people at law firms are making mistakes. Junior associates, senior associates, partners, etc. Senior people are better at explaining their mistakes away, and it's definitely more stressful to make a mistake as a junior who hasn't "proven" himself or herself to be competent, but perfection is completely unattainable. The hours are too long, the work is too detailed, and people are human. Also, no matter how poorly people react when something goes wrong, the reality is that the vast majority of mistakes can be fixed in one way or another. As someone said, as long as it's clear that you're working hard and doing your best, the vast majority of people will not hold any mistakes against you. (Some people are just insane, but you'll inevitably make those people mad even if you don't screw something up, so you can't worry about them too much.
2. What should be the pace for asking for work?
Do you have an assignment system? If so, I would wait to feel that out before asking for work - they may be good about keeping you busy, in which case asking for work will leave you overloaded. If you go a couple of days with little to no work, or you have reason to think that you're about to have no work, then I would ask one or two people (or the staffing person - I would start there if you have one so you don't look like you're trying to circumvent the system), but don't ask more than one or two at once. It's better to be without work when you're first starting than to piss people off by not being able to meet deadlines because you took on too much. It's also not unusual for new associates to have *materially* less work than the hours that people talk about on here.

Also, this may be more of a litigation thing, but you should err on the side of offering to do more on your current matters before asking for a new one. Joining a new matter when your current team is drowning is generally not a good look.
3. Are there any general tips with regard remote starts? What behaviors have TLS associates found to be annoying or helpful in their colleagues so far with regard to remote work?
My biggest tip on remote work is to keep people in the loop on your status on things (even if your status is that it's taking you a really long time to do something). New associates often don't do this enough because they're worried about being annoying, but I'd rather have too many updates than to be left wondering if someone is just baking bread at their apartment or doesn't understand that it's generally not a thing to just stop working on something urgent because it's 5:30.

I try to frame this as asking a follow-up question, like, "hey [senior associate], I'm working through [project] and was hoping you might have a few minutes for a couple of questions that have come up..." This lets them know that you're still working on it but also makes it seem like you have an actual reason for emailing them (and, if you're lucky, will lead to them conveying that it's not actually that urgent). Just don't send questions one at a time - wait until you have a few.

You can also just explicitly say something about how you just wanted to check in on [project] since you imagine it's harder to get a sense of work status when you're all remote - tell them you think you'll be able to wrap it up by [date/time] and just wanted to be sure that timing is okay on their end (or whatever). In general, anything you can frame as intended for the other person's benefit is a positive.

Otherwise, I would just try to be friendly and to take every opportunity that you get to do team Zooms, class year Zooms, etc. I personally hate this stuff, but it's good to do in the beginning. I think it's also good to politely express interest in getting to know and work with more senior people (e.g., if a partner says "oh, I'll have to loop you in on one of these matters at some point," you can tell them that sounds great and you'd love to jump in any time, etc.), but I wouldn't be pushy about setting up "networking" discussions (as new associates sometimes are) - although it's reasonable that you would want to get to know the senior people at your firm, it just comes off like you don't get how busy they are/generally don't understand life.

biglaw_advice

New
Posts: 37
Joined: Wed Jun 05, 2019 3:09 pm

Re: Advice for incoming associates w/ a remote start

Post by biglaw_advice » Mon Aug 24, 2020 4:40 pm

snehpets wrote:
Mon Aug 24, 2020 11:16 am
floatie wrote:
Sun Aug 23, 2020 11:56 pm
I'm joining a NYC firm that will be starting remotely in October, and I'm concerned about making sure I have a sufficient workflow given that I won't be able to reach out to anyone in person (my firm has an unassigned first year). We do have a workflow coordinator who reaches out when someone is looking for an extra associate, but a lot of people go outside of that process to look for work. Several of the partners and associates I worked with over the summer have since left the firm. Any advice on best ways to reach out to find out what's going on in the office, and best ways to get staffed? Thanks.
Is this based on your experience as a summer, or what you saw or heard from actual associates? If the former, I wouldn't view that as representative - being a summer associate doesn't have much in common with being a "real" associate. I worked on at least 15 different matters when I was a summer, and then when I started at a firm I worked on 2-3 for the entire first year. I also didn't work with any of the same people when I came back.

If this really is the associate experience and not just a summer thing, then I agree with the prior reply - if you have free time, politely reach out to the staffing coordinator. Frame it like you're trying to be helpful in keeping them updated, not that you're worried or demanding they find you work. I don't think it's going to be a big issue, though - if you're starting in October, they have work.

1. How much of a "reset" is starting as an associate?
I can count on one hand the number of summers who were bad enough that I remembered it when they came back, and not only were they *really* bad (not just normal summer associate bad), I only mentioned it to other associates when they were like, "have you ever worked with [summer associate]?! He's terrible." It's fairly uncommon for people to go out of their way to screw you over.

Also, everyone makes mistakes. Literally all the time people at law firms are making mistakes. Junior associates, senior associates, partners, etc. Senior people are better at explaining their mistakes away, and it's definitely more stressful to make a mistake as a junior who hasn't "proven" himself or herself to be competent, but perfection is completely unattainable. The hours are too long, the work is too detailed, and people are human. Also, no matter how poorly people react when something goes wrong, the reality is that the vast majority of mistakes can be fixed in one way or another. As someone said, as long as it's clear that you're working hard and doing your best, the vast majority of people will not hold any mistakes against you. (Some people are just insane, but you'll inevitably make those people mad even if you don't screw something up, so you can't worry about them too much.
2. What should be the pace for asking for work?
Do you have an assignment system? If so, I would wait to feel that out before asking for work - they may be good about keeping you busy, in which case asking for work will leave you overloaded. If you go a couple of days with little to no work, or you have reason to think that you're about to have no work, then I would ask one or two people (or the staffing person - I would start there if you have one so you don't look like you're trying to circumvent the system), but don't ask more than one or two at once. It's better to be without work when you're first starting than to piss people off by not being able to meet deadlines because you took on too much. It's also not unusual for new associates to have *materially* less work than the hours that people talk about on here.

Also, this may be more of a litigation thing, but you should err on the side of offering to do more on your current matters before asking for a new one. Joining a new matter when your current team is drowning is generally not a good look.
3. Are there any general tips with regard remote starts? What behaviors have TLS associates found to be annoying or helpful in their colleagues so far with regard to remote work?
My biggest tip on remote work is to keep people in the loop on your status on things (even if your status is that it's taking you a really long time to do something). New associates often don't do this enough because they're worried about being annoying, but I'd rather have too many updates than to be left wondering if someone is just baking bread at their apartment or doesn't understand that it's generally not a thing to just stop working on something urgent because it's 5:30.

I try to frame this as asking a follow-up question, like, "hey [senior associate], I'm working through [project] and was hoping you might have a few minutes for a couple of questions that have come up..." This lets them know that you're still working on it but also makes it seem like you have an actual reason for emailing them (and, if you're lucky, will lead to them conveying that it's not actually that urgent). Just don't send questions one at a time - wait until you have a few.

You can also just explicitly say something about how you just wanted to check in on [project] since you imagine it's harder to get a sense of work status when you're all remote - tell them you think you'll be able to wrap it up by [date/time] and just wanted to be sure that timing is okay on their end (or whatever). In general, anything you can frame as intended for the other person's benefit is a positive.

Otherwise, I would just try to be friendly and to take every opportunity that you get to do team Zooms, class year Zooms, etc. I personally hate this stuff, but it's good to do in the beginning. I think it's also good to politely express interest in getting to know and work with more senior people (e.g., if a partner says "oh, I'll have to loop you in on one of these matters at some point," you can tell them that sounds great and you'd love to jump in any time, etc.), but I wouldn't be pushy about setting up "networking" discussions (as new associates sometimes are) - although it's reasonable that you would want to get to know the senior people at your firm, it just comes off like you don't get how busy they are/generally don't understand life.

As a biglaw midlevel, totally agree with the points raised here. I always appreciate an update on what a junior is doing vs. silence. I think this is even more important working remotely because it's easy to forget when a senior associate/partner is juggling several different clients/matters. I'd also recommend shadowing to the extent you can, i.e. listening in on calls (and then taking notes on those calls), offering to write client alerts, etc.

Want to continue reading?

Register now to search topics and post comments!

Absolutely FREE!


Post Reply Post Anonymous Reply  

Return to “Legal Employment”