Sunday, September 18, 2011

"10 Things Every Law Student Should Know Before Starting At A Law Firm"

The list is from Lateral Link via Above the Law.  Most of it is equally good advice for getting ahead in law school too but  especially pertinent may be the tip about making your rough drafts as good as possible - the more effort you put into them, the quicker you'll move up the learning curve.

Be professional…always – You will establish your reputation early in your career, so be wary about your emails, phone calls, and conversations. Reputation at the firm matters and junior associates’ (and summer associates’) reputations carry with them for many years. It takes years of diligence and trust to develop a reputation; it only takes one unprofessional email (and feature story on Above the Law) to ruin it. (Ed note: we used to refer to this as the coral reef syndrome in law school - as in "it takes thousands of hours to build a good GPA [or coral reef] and all it takes is one bad grade [or storm] to destroy it."
Know your deadlines - For every assignment, always ascertain the deadline and find out if it is a soft or hard deadline. A hard deadline is the absolute final date that an assignment must be completed by (i.e. a filing date); soft deadlines are typically internal to the firm or a partner. Regardless of the type of deadline, you should be diligent either way and get your assignments complete on time. By knowing your deadlines and planning in advance, you can plan your personal life around your professional life. Sometimes deadlines will interfere no matter how diligent you are with your schedule. In that case, suck it up unless it is really important.

Make your rough drafts solid - A rough draft should be as close to perfect as possible. "Rough" only refers to the legal analysis, not the writing, grammar, or spelling. Your rough draft should not look like a drunk text you sent the previous weekend, so no cute abbreviations or emoticons. Any notations or comments that make sense only to you should be removed or clarified.

Network early and get connected - Firms are very political and knowing the right people can make a huge difference in which direction your career takes. Get to know and work with the most influential people at the firm (partners and associates) and you will greatly improve your working experience and longevity. Even though it’s been over a year since the last big firm associate layoff, you should never forget that you may fall victim to a future round of layoffs. It is a lot harder to fire someone you know and like than a person you only know on paper. Furthermore, if you are well-connected within your firm, there will be more people willing to go to bat for you (whether that means a good assignment, promotion, or getting to keep your job).

Read the rest of the tips here.


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