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This post is the last of three that marks LegalJob’s one-year anniversary and covers the third of the three most frequently asked topics/questions.

Another of the most frequently asked questions is in the area of best practices for associates, particularly junior for associates. In general, the question is how to I become (or keep my status as) a rising star.  This question is frequently asked because other than the advice to hit (or exceed) billable hours requirements and the mandate to do excellent (not defined) work, law firms generally do not encourage associates to focus on certain soft skills that will help ensure success. LegalJob has provided various posts on this topic (see the series entitled “Meeting the expectations of a big firm partner”). The gist of these posts is that, in general, there are two skills that, if mastered, help you be successful as an associate:

Communicate timely and whenever possible.
In general, err on the side of too much communication (and tweak based on individual preferences expressed below).

  • No news to report on a project your responsible for, send an e-mail anyway
  • Not able to make the deadline, let folks know as soon as possible
  • You do not understand what is required of you generally, ask
  • You do not understand the assignment, ask
  • You notice an error you made, tell people right away
  • Not getting enough work, let people know
  • Not getting the kind of work you are interested in, let people know
  • Not going to be in the office for a while and you know in advance, tell people
  • Interested in writing and speaking, let people know
  • Interested in working on a certain matter or for a certain client, let people know
  • Have ideas about how to make a project more efficient, pitch a client, solve a problem, let people know
  • Respond as soon as possible to a partner/client inquiry even if just to say message received, will look into and report back

 
Understand the quirks/preferences of the partners/clients and indulge them (where possible.)
Every partner/client has different preferences and they are not obvious so you should ask upfront to help ensure you are meeting expectations.  Satisfying preferences are just as important to your success as doing excellent work.

  • Ask upfront about expectations regarding
    • Day to day (is face time important, what is preferred method of communication among e-mail, phone, visits, how often)
    • Receiving work assignments (should associate be proactive or wait for partner, should he or she come whenever plate is clean, just before, etc.)
    • Working on projects (how often to check in, spend extra time to perfect project or meet deadline, preferred method of communication here)
    • Research (should you work until you get the answer, should you bill everything or discount hours yourself)
    • Presenting conclusions (should you write formal memos each time, should you send a summary e-mail first, should you prepare an executive summary, does the partner have preferences for memo format)

 

Image courtesy of Michal Marcol.

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