LegalJob has been asked the following question several different ways recently:
Q: I am a second year associate at [a top AmLaw 100 firm] and I am on track for about 20% fewer hours than last year. I am not sure what to do because I told the partner in charge of the group last month and my group in general does not seem have enough work to keep everyone busy.
Answer: You are already on the right track for being proactive about the situation. Overall, you should think about activities that can best help your career while not billing hours in your practice specialty. LegalJob probably needs to know more facts here to properly tailor the advice (and the circumstances of each situation would likely dictate the order of the activities below), but generally you should consider taking one or more of the following action steps:
You already started this step by letting the partner in charge know about your situation. It may make sense to let others in the firm know as well (and it may be appropriate to let the partner in charge know your plan so that the appropriate firm protocol is followed). Other folks that could potentially help are: 1) other partners in your group (who may be inclined to think of you next time a project comes in now that you have communicated your workload situation directly and expressed interest in helping on anything); 2) the partners in charge in other offices in your practice area; 3) the other partners in other offices in your practice area (again be sure to follow appropriate firm protocol here); and 4) partners in charge and other partners in other practice areas in which you have an interest. You never know. This could be an opportunity to work in area you have not considered but may really enjoy. Whichever you end up doing, LegalJob recommends that you communicate in person as much as possible (and by phone if not possible). In person you can convey your sincere interest and motivation in helping. Also, your e-mail may not receive much attention from the partner, especially if he or she does not have a current need for you.
► Write an article, speak somewhere, participate in a panel, or head up an ABA section or some other group.
There are plenty of good opportunities for young lawyers who have the time to get their name out there. Participate in an activity or a series of activities where you can add value and get noticed. If you are not sure (or even if you think you are), ask a partner or two their suggestions for worthwhile activities.
► Learn from a partner.
Perhaps there are juicy projects around that cannot support additional billable hours but can still benefit from your input. If you have the opportunity to do some heavy lifting (not just memos to the file) and work along side a partner and learn from him or her, this could be advantageous to you in the long-term. Be careful not to spend too much time here. However, for the perfect situation (not monopolizing all of your time and lots of private time with a partner who is willing to teach), you should consider this option.
► Take professional development courses.
PLI courses are always good but also consider courses that can help you improve your writing and speaking skills which will also serve you well for your career.