Top 10 Tips for First-Year Associates
December 8, 2017
Many law firms recently welcomed their new class of associates and are focused on preparing them for their first year. New associates across the country are meeting their mentors and paired associates, sitting down for extensive orientation and training sessions, and taking advantage of an abundance of resources their firms look to provide to help them navigate the unknown. Amid the heavy programming, there’s no shortage of guidance and advice to be found. O’Melveny’s Hiring Partner Allen Burton decided to catch up with junior associates who now have one year under their belt and ask them a simple question: “What one piece of advice would you give to a new associate?”
Here are the top 10 tips that came out of the process:
10. To the extent possible, try to get on a case that is leanly staffed and where there is an opportunity to have early leadership and responsibility. I was fortunate enough to have this opportunity and feel that it has been the greatest learning experience. Kate Kennedy, San Francisco, Litigation (Berkeley ’16)
9. Go out of your way to meet attorneys at events and trainings or make sure that you grab coffee or lunch with partners and associates that you’re interested in working with. A big part of developing those relationships is having a can-do attitude and being excited to take on projects even if they are unfamiliar to you. Taking advantage of those kinds of opportunities will be remembered and can open doors for you when you begin as a junior associate. Maiah Parks, San Francisco, Transactions (UC Hastings ’16)
8. Don’t be afraid to take on responsibilities or projects that seem beyond your year level; these opportunities are the best way to learn and the system is set up to prevent you from failing. Alexandra Piarino, Century City, Transactions (Stanford ’16)
7. Keep in mind what your best habits were in your past roles and make sure that you continue to transfer those to this profession. You always want to make sure that you’re presenting yourself in a professional manner. John Hill, New York, Litigation (Duke ’16)
6. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, they will happen. Use them as valuable learning opportunities. Bianca Harlow, Los Angeles, Transactions (Harvard ’16)
5. Make a deliberate effort to find a mentor at the firm – someone who’s been around for a while and who you can be honest with about your interests, struggles, worries, etc. Having someone you trust that you can go to for advice or even just to vent can be invaluable. Tyler Runge, Newport Beach, Litigation (Harvard ’15, post-clerkship)
4. Stop worrying about all the things that don’t matter! Hours billed, partner praise, are you on the right case? Are you working for a certain practice group?… Just do good work and the rest comes without urging. If you learn what you can and help where you can, you’ll have what you need (and plenty of hours to boot). Eileen Brogan, Washington, DC, Litigation (Georgetown ’16)
3. If someone takes the time to give you thoughtful criticism, realize that it is a gift, and learn to accept it in stride and learn from it. Katie Gosewehr, Silicon Valley, Litigation (NYU ’16)
2. Consider your audience when you deliver work product: make your emails easy to skim, lay out the general conclusion up front, and put things in context for the reader. Your teammates are relying on you to add value by making your work easy to understand and incorporate into the larger work stream, so make sure you aren’t just dumping a lot of information on them. Angela Lee, Century City, Litigation (Harvard ’16)
1. As a new associate, it can be easy to assume that those more senior than you on a case may have as much, if not more, familiarity with case law or facts on any given issue. But don’t be afraid to speak up if you think your team may be missing something. It can be very helpful for your team knowing that the junior associate is paying attention to all the details and making sure to keep everyone on track. Nathalie Fayad, Silicon Valley, Litigation (Berkeley ’16)
For more first-year perspectives, listen to O'Melveny's podcast.
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