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I’m a first year associate at a Big Law firm. Most of my assignments have been research memos and summary emails. I enjoy research but the questions asked are never obvious and the answer is usually nuanced, unclear, or the perfect case just doesn’t exist. As a result, it usually takes me a while to craft an answer that I feel confident in. However, more and more often I’ve been given very short deadlines to turn over the research, as short as 3-4 hours for a complicated question. Is this common

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I started asking if they wanted a memo or just the answer in an email. If they want it quickly, they usually say email. Also, I’ve asked for more time by giving an update and saying “I found X line of cases, I think they may be helpful in exploring Y angle. Do you want me to look into them or give you what I have now? I think I would need an extra Z hours to review them.”

likesmart

That makes sense! Thanks!

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First year here as well. What I do is, if given a 3-4 hour deadline, i'll stop after an hour of research if I am in the weeds. I will report back to my boss with what in generally finding and sometimes theyll tell you okay its no longer necessary, or they will change the issue and now you can start all over again. If you are getting a lot of "in the weeds" type research, tell your boss. That's exactly what he wants to know, maybe.

likesmart

I’m also a first year and have been experiencing a similar struggle - In the beginning I would get so focused on trying to write the perfect letter or memo that before I knew it I’d wasted a ton of time and frankly, just wasn’t getting it done the way I needed to. I too started doing the stop after an hour, evaluate, ask for help/direction if need be, then come back at it method. I also try to remind myself daily that “done is better than perfect” - it’s a work in progress but hey we’re new at this. Hang in there!

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and how do I ask for more time without seeming incompetent?

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Yes, I update via email

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Of course these are not clear or obvious questions... That's why it needs to be researched. Law school teaches us that research and writing is an exercise in writing. Practice will teach you that research is to find an answer to a question. Depending on what the memo will be used for, the answer is frequently more important than your writing style. I concur with others who are saying an email maybe the way to go, if agreed upon as acceptable. Don't let perfection get in the way of getting the job done. You are not looking for a grade, you are looking for a win.

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If you are in a big law firm there is probably research already done or started. You may be able to issue search in your firm’s data base to get started. If you are in a practice group, you are probably assigned to a senior associate or junior partner. Get some guidance or direction. There is no reason to recreate the wheel or feel in the weeds. Different partners have different expectations and varying degrees of skill in communicating assignments and tolerating delay. Learn your audience.

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