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From Paralegal to Associate:  How to Survive your First Year on the Job – Part I

You have survived and graduated from Law School … You have survived and passed the Bar.  Congratulation!!  What amazing achievements.  After the rush of excitement settles down, you realize that now, lays yet a new challenge ahead of you:  your first job as an associate attorney. 

What can you do to survive your first year on the job?  I have done some research, and adding to it my own personal experience, I am sharing what I found out.  I have divided the article into two Parts.  In part one I will discuss the first few weeks into a new job.  Next month, in part two, I will discuss the importance of networking and attending conferences.

1.  Make a Great First (and Lasting) Impression

They say it takes just 1/10 of a second to judge someone and make a first impression! No pressure here! Introduce yourself to everyone in the law firm (or the in-house department), be nice to everyone from the receptionist to the Partners.  Remember that in this profession, your reputation is your most important asset.  Be social, friendly, and professional.   That first impression goes beyond just your ability to smile to everyone, make sure you work hard, especially the first few weeks.  This will be an intense period (remember the first few months of Law School... well this is a do-over!).  Say Yes and be willing to help everyone (including the staff). 

2.  Be Proactive

This one goes hand to hand with working hard: do not just fly by and get away with doing the minimum amount of work that is given to you.  Go above and beyond.  Get noticed, be proactive (without stepping on anyone toes or cutting anyone else in that process I should emphasis).  Take initiative, but try to be mindful of other more senior associate, who may (or may not) feel threatened or annoyed by your uber-enthusiasm.  I know this is a difficult sea to navigate on, but just remember to always be nice and professional.  Don’t be arrogant or a know-it-all, be humble.

By taking initiative, you accomplish two things: (1) you get to learn more and (2) you get notice for your hard work.

3.  Keep Learning

Learning did not stop after passing the Bar.  Of course, all states require CLE to be completed, but this goes beyond just taking your required CLE classes.  Keep learning, read the ABA Journal that get deliver to your desk monthly… read your state Bar News.  Sign up for legal newsletters.  Stay on top of the new cases decided by the Supreme Court of your state.  If you work in a particular field, such as new technologies, stay on top of the field latest developments.   Clients (and Partners) are always impressed with an attorney who know their business and can discuss it in detail. 

4.  Ask for advice

Don’t be shy and don’t think you need to know it all.  No one does. Be confident to ask questions, or to ask for clarification if a task is not clear.  If you get stuck, reach out to a senior associate.  This will avoid having the work to be redone, and save you valuable billable hour time!  In the process, remember to stay open to criticism, humble, and not easily offended.  Take a deep breath when the draft comes back full of edits to be made.  This is a learning process.  We all make mistakes, and the critiques are here to make all of us better attorneys!

See you next month for Part II!

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