Top Ten Tips for Brand New Associates!

My law school classmates and I have been at our jobs for about a year now.  In some cases, new associates have started and in others new associates are starting shortly.  We are by no means experts, but I thought it might be nice to reflect on what we've learned and offer some tips.  So, I emailed a few friends and asked them to tell me what they wish they'd known or what they think they've learned. The result is a Top 10 List that, while it won't make Letterman, might help you as you're starting your new job!

So, without further delay, the Top 10 Things We Wish We Had Known A Year Ago …

1. A lot of the advice boils down to this one simple tip: Don’t reinvent the wheel!

2. Rutter and Bender are to legal practice as Chimerinsky is to Con Law.  Find them, learn them, and love them.  (Rutter and Bender may not be the right treatises for your area of the law but there are treatises for almost every area!  Figure out what they are, spend some time learning how to navigate them, and you'll be glad you did!)

3. Precedent – it’s essential for corporate lawyers but litigators should look up a few examples of the motion you’re working on from previous cases in the same district (or a comparable one) to get an idea about what your documents should look like.

4. Make friends with the paralegals and secretaries!  Many of us agree that they're often smarter than we are because they've got more experience than you'll have.  They’ll help you find your way around the firm and are great sources of advice when you’re not sure what to do.

5. Don’t be afraid to correct the minor mistakes of your supervisor.  Not only will they appreciate it, they expect you to do so!  I used to think it was rude until I realized that some senior people expect that juniors will do that work.   

6. Sending an email to a senior associate or partner?  Read it out loud before hitting send.  You’re more likely to catch a typo this way!  You might also check out this post about email etiquette more generally.

7. A couple people sent me different versions of this tip:  Own your work.  Always assume that your work product is final unless someone tells you otherwise.  Your Senior Associate or Partner may assume the email memo you sent is done and forward it to the client.  It will be VERY embarrassing for them and then you if you’ve missed something so Shepardize your cases and Bluebook your cites before hitting send.  Actually, just ALWAYS Shepardize.


8. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake!  It’s going to happen and obsessing over an email or assignment will not keep you from having to do it and may just diminish your work product.  My new mantra is: “Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good.”  (But when you do make a mistake, you might want to consider all of this advice about what to do!)

9. Know your deadlines and don’t ever be afraid to ask when something is due!  Also, don't be afraid to ask how people prefer that you communicate with them. (e.g. “If I have a question, do you prefer email or phone calls?”)

10. Make friends with your colleagues especially if you don’t work with them!  It’s nice to have people that you see at work that you never discuss work with.

Oh, and my last tip, keep reading Ms. JD!  You might check out these articles containing tips for Junior Associates.  Or these posts with interviews from first year associates in different positions.  And if you have a question you'd like us to try to answer, please let us know.  You can post in the comments or email us!  Do you think we missed a tip?  Add it in the comments as well!

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