Meeting the expectations of a big firm partner (part two)

LegalJob’s first post in this area generated lots of comments and further questions this week about how one can meet (and exceed) the expectations of a big firm partner.

LegalJob’s first post in this area generated lots of comments and further questions this week about how one can meet (and exceed) the expectations of a big firm partner.

For additional insight, LegalJob asked another AmLaw 100 firm senior partner for his thoughts on best practices for AmLaw 100 firm associates.  The questions LegalJob asked and the partner’s responses are provided below.  This time the questions and answers will be divided up into three posts (as requested by several people).  This post will cover the areas of “day to day” and “receiving work assignments.” 

1. Day to Day

Q: Is face-time important to you?  Do you expect associates to arrive before you get in, and to be at the firm until you leave?

▸ Face-time is important in that I prefer to communicate in person.  I do not expect associates to be in before me or after I leave.  The important thing is that they get their work done well and on time.

Q: Do you prefer to communicate by e-mail, phone call, or office visit with associates?  Do you find associates rely too much on email?  Does your answer depend on the time sensitivity of the client matter?

▸ I prefer to communicate face-to-face.  I do think that associates rely too much on email (as do most lawyers).  On anything sensitive, my preference is face-to-face.  Second choice is phone. 

Q: Would you prefer regular meetings with the associate to update you on status of work assignments and current workload?  Should the associate initiate those meetings?

▸ Regular meetings.  The associate should initiate.  Don’t have to be long. 

Q: Would you prefer the associate check in with you every day if he or she leaves before you or visit with you before you leave?  Does your answer depend on whether the associate is working on a time sensitive matter?

▸ Really depends on how time sensitive the matter is.  There are instances when I’d like hear the status more than once a day.  For general status checks, weekly is usually sufficient.

2. Receiving work assignments

Q: How do you prefer to handle the assignment process?  How proactive should associates be in seeking out work? Whenever their plate is clean?  Before their plate is clean if they can anticipate when they will be finished?

▸ Anytime that they have availability.  Can be before their plate is clean if they are really sure that they will be available at the time they say. 

Q: Do you want to know if the associate has other assignments in every case?  Or, should they only share that information with you if they believe they may have a problem with a deadline?

▸ I do want to know what else they are doing, particularly in the case of junior associates.  I find that junior associates are not particularly good at evaluating how much work something will take.

Q: Should the associate manage your expectations with respect to deadline, i.e., tell you it will take longer than they think to avoid disappointment?

▸ No.  I want estimates to be as reliable as possible. 

Q: What is the best way to learn your preferred format and style preferences?  Ask you, ask an associate who has completed assignments from you in the past, ask another partner?

▸ Ask me.

Q: If this is the first time an associate has worked for you should they request a sample memo (or other) format to illustrate your style preferences?

▸ No.

Q: What questions should the associate ask when receiving an assignment?

▸ When the deadline is.  What format I want the answer in.  How often should they check in with me.