Law school and the bar exam are behind you, and your first job as a junior associate awaits. What is expected of you?
Exemplar work product. Whether you are asked to research an issue, draft an internal memo or write a motion to the court, your job is to make sure it is perfect. But perfection takes time, you say. The partners at the firm will think I’m slow and inefficient, you say. It’s a tempting trap to fall into - not to go that extra mile for fear that others will think you are not bright or are milking a file. Don’t fall into the trap. If you are billing by the hour, the partner can cut your time if need be (junior associates often get their time cut, even when they are "efficient"). If time is an issue, you may have to spend some late nights or early mornings to keep up with your workload.
But whatever you do, make sure that your work is the best it can be. Find that extra case, go down the next rabbit hole and the one after that and proofread what you wrote not just once, but three times. Partners remembers associates who do quality work, and deep down, they know that quality takes time. They’ll forgive inefficiency. They won’t forget poor quality.
Do the dirty work. No one likes doing the mundane, detail-oriented tasks, like going through boxes of documents, answering interrogatories or tracking down hard to find witnesses. Volunteer for these tasks and do them well, and you will get noticed.
Do it with a smile. Doing your job is not enough. You need to do it with the right attitude.
Learn a practice area inside and out. Now is the time to learn everything you can about your practice area. Read the Bar journal articles relevant to your practice. Attend local CLE seminars. Go online, find and read everything you can about what you do. The greater your mastery of an area of the law, the more you will be relied upon when those types of cases come through the door.
Get involved. It’s never too early to get involved in bar associations. Your best bet is the local county or a local specialty bar association. Most bar associations have young lawyer divisions who are eager to invite new members into their fold.
Get along with the staff. Even though you are an attorney, you are, in a way, junior to your very own secretary. She probably knows more about your job than you do, as do the paralegals and possibly even the file clerks. They can help you handle all the practical aspects of your job -how to set a hearing or deposition, how to send a proposed order to the court, etc.
Learning the rules. As a junior associate, your most important job is to learn the rules - the rules of your firm, of your partners, the other associates and the staff. Every organization and every person plays by its or his own rules. Law firms are no different. If you want to get along and fit in, figure out what those rules are.
As a junior associate, your job is to integrate yourself into firm life and do the best job on your assignments, whether they are a document review, a memo or a motion. The odds are that you will not get many of the exciting assignments, but if you do what is expected, your time will come.