Develop a core professional identity in a business environment
How Associates Can Stay Safe in Uncertain Times
Provide top-notch client service.
You as a junior associate will have the smoothest path to success if you focus on providing top-notch customer service to your clients. And your first clients (and, arguably, the most important) are the senior associates and partners with whom you work daily.
Exceed the minimal expectations.
Every law firm has goals and expectations, some of which are spelled out like the billable-hour target and others that you won't find in any manual.
I strongly suggest that you figure out exactly how your performance will be measured and focus on exceeding the goals set by your firm. Thus, if the firm's billable-hour target is 1,900 hours, why would you put yourself in a situation where you have to justify why you didn't make your hours? If you are not getting sufficient work to meet the target, then you need to address this right away instead of cowering in the corner hoping that you will fly below the radar. Be proactive; this is your career!
Don't send an e-mail when you can meet in person.
You want to avoid being the topic of a conversation between partners that starts with, "Can you believe Associate X did ..." When discussions begin that way, the partners usually go on to recount the associate's actions or inactions that drive them crazy such as failing to cite check or proofread briefs, not completing assignments on time, missing the mark completely on a project and myriad others.
Share bad news early and propose solutions for the problem.
Bad outcomes happen in the practice of law. Instead of becoming paralyzed if something does not go according to plan, go immediately to your supervising lawyer to advise her of your concerns (or mistakes).
Prepare a written professional development plan today.
I strongly advocate that you prepare a concrete, written plan of personal action items you intend to pursue over the next 90, 180 and 365 days to advance your professional development. Write down the specific projects you want to undertake to sharpen your legal skills (e.g., draft an entire section of a summary judgment brief) as well as how you intend to better serve your internal and external clients (e.g., schedule lunch with your internal clients to get feedback on your work performance). Focus on skills that will serve you well regardless of whether you stay in your current firm or are compelled to move elsewhere.