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Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: Practical Advice for New Lawyers

Q: I am concerned about being inefficient and spending too much time on projects. How much of my own time should I cut? A: None. Zero. Zilch. Seriously. Failing to record all of the time you spent on a project is one of the most self-destructive practices that can trap new lawyers. It is particularly insidious, because new lawyers typically cut their time with the best of intentions. Some new lawyers fail to record all their time because they are concerned about charging clients too much. This is a valid concern, and new lawyers need to focus on providing value…

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Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: Practical Advice for New Lawyers

Q: When I asked a lawyer for feedback on my work, the lawyer just said that it was “fine.” But when I got my review, the lawyer had given very specific negative feedback. What is going on? A: Providing any feedback consumes precious time. Providing negative feedback can also be awkward – even for the most intrepid lawyers. Unfortunately, this lawyer decided to skip out on giving feedback by being less than frank. Was this poor form? Yes. Inconceivable? No. Consider this story of a partner who once asked my advice about giving feedback to an associate. A mid-level associate…

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Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: Practical advice for new lawyers

Q: Do I have to attend firm social events? I don’t like those kinds of things. A: I get it. Firm social events can sometimes seem awkward. At first you won’t know many people, and the events may feel like an extension of work. You can’t truly let go, because you have to maintain your professionalism. That constraint at an event with unlimited free booze may seem like cruel and unusual punishment. But moderate, you must.  Particularly if you are an introvert, after working long hours you may prefer to sit at home on your couch – or lock yourself…

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Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: Practical Advice for New Lawyers

Q: As a new associate, how much can I change the firm? A: That should not be the first thing on your mind when you walk in the door. But here is the answer: As a brand new lawyer, you probably have less influence over change than most other lawyers. You are likely to have more influence than staff members (except the non-lawyers who run the place). Isaac Ruiz, a partner at a Seattle firm, developed a list of personas that he counsels new associates to avoid. One of those is “The Union Leader,” the associate who “swoops into the…

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