Thursday, June 16, 2011


Just because your work product is top-notch does not guarantee your success as an associate. Make no mistake – your work product must be stellar. Nothing can kill your career faster than performing your job duties poorly. But even with exceptional work product, there are other key things you should be doing to ensure your success.

Ask For the Work You Want To Do. Tell the department head or the individual in charge of assignments the types of cases or projects you want to be involved in. If you like working for a particular person, tell them to keep you in mind for future projects. You can only get the work you want if others know what it is you want to work on.

Find a Mentor and a Buddy. Whether your firm has a formal mentorship program or not, you have to develop two types of mentor/mentee relationships. First, with a senior associate or partner who embodies where you want to be in the future in your career and who you are comfortable speaking with regarding career advice. The other should be a mid-level associate you can go to with “silly” questions on how to get things done at the firm. Both are important to your long term success.

Be Aware of Your Billable Hours. Everyone hates doing it but it is one of the most important things you can do as an associate - track your billable time every day. Know what your requirements are and whether you are on track to meet them. If you are not going to meet your requirements, make sure your superiors know why. If it is because you did not have enough work, make sure you have a record of asking for work to meet your requirements.

Use and Track Non-Billable Time. Participate in marketing/networking events to develop relationships that help advance your career and assist in client development. Join in firm activities or committees to demonstrate your commitment to the firm. But most importantly, establish a method for tracking this non-billable time so that you can detail your contributions to the firm.

Talk to your Assistant. Set aside time early on to talk to your assistant to discuss each other’s expectations. Also, your assistant should always know where you are.

Know Your Support Staff. Introduce yourself to the mail room staff (especially the night staff), the copy center, the word processing room, the supply room. Be kind and friendly to everyone. You will, at some point, be the person that has to get a late night mailing out and these are the people that will be helping you do it.

Return Calls the Same Day. Whenever possible return all phone calls, whether they are from clients, the court, a partner, or another associate, on the same day you receive them.

Provide Timely Updates. Always timely update the supervising attorneys you are working with on your progress and any issues that have arisen. Determine the supervising attorney’s preferred method of being updated and use it.