Starting at a firm post-clerkship in September. Never worked in a firm (and private practice generally) before. Any tips/advice to help prepare me would be appreciated.

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Commitments are less likely to be seen as disposable if you call them meetings. E.g., “sorry I can’t, I have a meeting,” is received differently than, “sorry, I am getting lunch with my wife, can we connect later instead.”

People don’t need to know what you’re doing all of the time unless it involves them.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, let not the left hand no what the right is doing, it possible. If you work exclusively for one person/group, they know that, and they know and assume that if you’re not working for them then you’re not working. Having at least one other “affiliation” means they will more likely assume that you are instead working for their rival for your time and attention. Besides this making life more personally tolerable it also creates an impression of being in demand. You can likely work less even as your reputation gets better.

For work, understand the big picture. If you don’t, ask. When someone says something doesn’t need to be formal it does not mean incomplete, rough, or unrealized. It means deliver something tactical and out of the box functional.

Be proactive. Develop projects that can be cross sold to the client or to your colleagues. Hey, we’re advising you on X but while we’re at it you might think about Y. Hey Partner, this case touched on a lot of interesting issues about Z, if I put together a CLE on Z law would be you be interested in presenting with me and talking about this case? Hey mid level/senior associate, I created an actually sensible organization for the matter folder, developed an excel document that is just a chron, but with useful headers that allows for utilization/key doc identification outside relativity, or took the lead on overseeing paralegals so you don’t need to anymore, or for [spontaneously alleviated some other pain point in your life]. By the way noticed you’re on Matter A I’m super interested in, let me know if you ever need an extra hand.

Speak up, propose things and disagree, (not in front of the client) but don’t debate. if you are shot down, at least until you have the relationships and experience to do so and it to be productive.

Aggregate questions, schedule time and knock things out in groups. 100 questions in one meeting is less disruptive that 10 questions in ten meetings/calls/emails. Seriously.

Raise your hand if anything is really getting off the rails as soon as possible. No one will be mad. You’re a lawyer. You solve problems. If you have a problem, don’t ignore or hide it. Solve it. Ask your colleagues, as they too get paid to solve problems and are good at it.

Always make sure you clearly define deliverables and deadlines when receiving assignments.

Your law firm centralizes assignments and that policy is strict? No it’s not. The aversion to confrontation almost certainly means nothing will happen, definitely not to you. Maybe to the partner who didn’t follow the system to staff you on their cases but it’ll be more like, cmon use the system. No one will do anything if you convince a partner you can help them make money and/or make their life easier. No one will do anything to that partner for bucking the system if that’s true. You work for the partners not administrative staff or anyone else.

Be super nice, though, to support staff, and be willing to give more open ended assignments that others won’t give them. You can get surprisingly tactical work product flowing to you that other dont out of this because you trusted a person who graduated from NYU with perfect grades and is matriculating you Harvard Law to do things other than make binders and thought outside the box.

For calls, make agendas, goals, outlines of relevant facts etc to use on the phone. Send them to people doing talking, if it’s not you. Profit. Nothing fancy. Tactical.

Spending a few minutes to learn how to use excel, PowerPoint, and word (especially styles) properly will make you seem like magic at times when compared to peers who become helpless and need an expert to change an axis on a chart etc.

If you get really busy for a while, and then it lets up even slightly, you may forget that simply because you are not working literally all the does not mean you have bandwidth. you should aim for your staffing of 80% capacity or so. That is max capacity. Because sometimes even that 80% will become 110% and you’ll push it and gut it out. That’s a bad time but where war stories come from. Without building in room for that, you are an empty promise on at least some of your teams. Your staffing to a matter represents an available resource, but if you can’t be utilized you’re not only not helping, you’re preventing that team from getting other resources that can be. This will end less well than simply telling someone who asks if you have bandwidth that you don’t. If unsure or feeling slow, outline what’s on your plate and let them decide or provide feedback.

One them I guess is that saying “yes” sometimes feels like an easier/better/necessary way to advance but saying no is way more important. Say yes when you mean it not out of instinct or reflex. Say anything else the rest of the time.


Partners are just like your judge-you’ll have to quickly learn and adopt their style (and balance multiple ones at that). Seek out peers who can give you the DL on some partners and also learn how to bill/do time entries. Oh also be mindful westlaw is no longer free 😭


Echoing Westlaw $$$, talk to your firm librarian on some tricks. For example, if you type in the correct cite of a case in the search bar, it does not cost money to bring up that result (shepherdize from there). If you access the statute through the front page, statutes section instead of searching for it, you don't incur a charge. Westlaw keynotes, and searching within, is free also and can get you started.

If you simply type in search terms rather than shepherdizingcases, you run up $1000s of dollars quickly.


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