Think like a lawyer

LegalJob responded to the following post today. Q: I am a first year associate (2/3 done) at a big firm.

LegalJob responded to the following post today. 


Q:  I am a first year associate (2/3 done) at a big firm.  One of the partner’s for whom I receive most of my assignments has invited me to sit in on a client meeting (for the first time).  He told me that I will not be expected to talk.  I certainly want to be mindful of my place but I want to make sure I am adding value.  Any ideas?


Answer:   LegalJob suggests that you be as prepared as possible so that you can help make the partner look good — like he thought of everything and that he spends all of his time thinking about this client.    It is possible that this prep work will not be billable (talk to the partner about this before recording).  Even if not billable, however, this will be a worthwhile exercise and will help demonstrate the kind of associate you are — your attention to detail and your value to the firm.  Here are some specifics:

▸ Find out as much about the meeting as possible, including purpose, background, partner’s objectives, client’s expectations, etc.

▸ Let the partner know that you would like to meet with him 15-30 minutes (as appropriate) before the client meeting, if possible. 

▸ At that meeting, synthesize what you think he should know with your presentation to him and a one pager before going into the meeting (here is where you can add the most value because you have been in the weeds and have separated out the important take away points).

▸ FACTS:  Make sure you are an expert on the client’s facts.  Know cold all the facts that have been provided.   If a transaction, know every step even the ones that seem unimportant.  Understand the economics as well as possible such that you could clearly articulate what is happening.  If there are additional facts you think would be helpful, write them down and inform the partner.  Think of this as an advance form of issue spotting.

▸ LAW:  Read everything you can on the subject matter from a variety of different sources.  Dig deep here.  Review caselaw, statutes, regulations, comments to regulations, if available, legislative history, articles. treatises, any prior (or current) firm work on subject, even google.

▸ Take an extra step if there is sufficient time — call subject matter experts in government  or others.

▸ THINK:  What would the client want to know?  What does the client need to know?  How can the information be communicated succinctly?  Note that the client in this case is the partner.