Starting a new Biglaw job?

Even if you were a summer associate at your firm, working as a first-year associate is a whole new game. You’re actually someone’s lawyer now!

Regardless of what firms tell you when you’re a summer associate (i.e., that they give summers “real substantive work” – most don’t), real Biglaw work doesn’t start until your first day as an associate.

Now is that time for many of you! And you might be a little nervous. Some things that might be going through your head as those first few assignments to come in:

  • Which partners and associates will you work with?
  • What kind of work will you get?
  • Will you like your coworkers? Will they like you?
  • Will you know what you’re doing? Will you catch on?
  • Will you even like the work, the lifestyle, the job overall?

There’s no denying it, starting anything new can be daunting, and Biglaw is no exception. To help you with your new Biglaw job jitters, here are my top five tips:

1. Show up: Be On-Time and Be Available

Am I beating a dead horse with this message? Probably. But it’s only because this really is the answer to so many junior associate problems, including first day (and first few months) jitters.

Your anxiety is likely to get worse if you aren’t meeting expectations. And the number one expectation for a first-year associate is that you be available, be on time for your meetings and calls, and that you show up and act like you want to be there.

You’re going to make so many mistakes, and most of those mistakes will be forgiven, so don’t get worked up about that. What you should focus on now is showing up for your new job (both physically/remotely and with a good attitude) and you’ll do just fine.

2. Start Building Your Support System ASAP

A lot of support exists within Biglaw, but you sometimes need to go out of your way to find it.

Start building your support system on day one. (Or even before that – e.g., you can reach out to anyone you worked with over the summer and let them know you’re back and that you’d love to catch up or work on something with them (if applicable).)

What do I mean by support system? I mean the women in the word processing center who will help you out in a pinch, the best paralegal in your group (there’s always one who is better than the rest), the tech team who can actually help you on-site (or remotely), and, most importantly, the more senior associates who you can go to with questions.

Questions like, how do you order dinner when you’re working overtime, what’s the dinner budget, how do you book travel, what’s the deal with Partner X and his confusing emails, what are some tips with dealing with Senior Associate Z who is unresponsive and demanding, and so on and so on.

3. Bond With Your Classmates

Perhaps your biggest support will come from those in your class – your fellow new associates.

You might not be able to turn to them to answer substantive questions or questions about firm policies (those are probably better answered by someone who has been around for longer), but your peers are your best support system.

They know exactly what you are going through because they’re going through it, too. You’ll bond over this new, stressful situation you’re all in as you learn the ropes together.

This type of support goes a long way when it comes to quelling your anxiety at a new place – you’re all in this together and you’ll all be ok.

4. Ask Questions

You will feel in over your head, constantly. Everyone does. It’s part of the process that all new associates go through. The best way to combat this feeling? By asking questions. Tons and tons of questions! You can basically never ask too many.

Make sure whenever you leave someone’s office (or zoom meeting) that you understand exactly what they expect from you. Repeat back to them what the assignment was. And then, while you’re working on the assignment and if something comes up, reach out to them.

If it’s a partner and you are intimidated by them or can’t get ahold of them, ask another associate for help. Even if they aren’t on the matter with you, they will likely have worked on something similar in the past and can offer some guidance.

It’s always better to over-ask than to turn something in that is below-par that could have been excellent if you had asked a few questions.

By asking questions you’ll alleviate a lot of the stress and feelings of “am I doing this right”? You’ll either get confirmation that, yes, you are on the right track or no, you are not – which is equally (if not more) helpful!

5. Remind Yourself That You Deserve to Be There.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that you deserve to be there. Sure, you might not know much about securities litigation (yet), but you made it through law school and your firm saw potential in you. At this point, that’s the most important thing – what’s your potential for learning?

It doesn’t matter where you went to law school or undergrad, what you got on the LSAT, whether or not you were on law review, how well you did when you were cold called during law school, or anything else.

You landed the job because of something the firm saw in you. You deserve to be there and you are qualified to be there!

Feeling a little less stressed?

There you have it, my top tips for new Biglaw associates who might be feeling anxious about starting their new jobs.

For some of you, it’s your first “real” job after years and years of school, so, of course, it’s normal to feel a bit jittery and nervous! Trust me, so does everybody else. You got this!

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