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Welcome to "First Week at the Firm," a new FindLaw feature for beginning associates, focused on helping you navigate the transition into firm life. We hope you'll enjoy this new series and come back regularly for more insider tips.

The billable hour is one of the defining characteristics of working at a firm. Like the Socratic method in law school, it's often hated, often criticized and yet remarkably intransigent. If you're starting as a new associate, get ready to start organizing your day, and your life, around the billable hour.

Don't worry, though -- the billable hour isn't always as fearsome as it's made out to be. With some skill and finesse, you can learn to master the system, maximizing your billables so you're not stuck in the office twelve hours a day. Here's some tips:

Beards were once fairly common in the legal profession, even if they were never the norm. Portraits of the Supreme Court under Justice Waite show a few Stonewall Jackson look-alikes, though the last Justice to sport a full beard, Justice George Sutherland, stepped down in 1938.

A few generations later, beards are booming again. From Brooklyn hipsters, to college professors, to Hollywood stars, beards are everywhere. But, are they appropriate for lawyers?

Welcome to "First Week at the Firm," a new FindLaw feature for beginning associates, focused on helping you navigate the transition into firm life. We hope you'll enjoy this new series and come back regularly for more insider tips.

Welcome to the firm! Get ready to start writing, because the bulk of many new associates' workloads will be research. It's easy to sit down and begin researching a question -- be it something simple, or something juicy -- and find yourself still sitting there, still researching hours later.

You could spend a lifetime looking through Westlaw or Lexis for that perfect case and still never find it. So, how do you know how long you should research an issue before you say enough is enough?

Welcome to "First Week at the Firm," a new FindLaw feature for beginning associates, focused on helping you navigate the transition into firm life. We hope you'll enjoy this new series and come back regularly for more insider tips.

If you're starting a new job at a firm, it can be difficult to decide what to wear once you're there. Sure, you suited up for the interview, but do you need to wear one every day? Can you take your slacks to the cocktail party, or should you go home and fancy up first?

You may know of the blog What2WearWhere. It's a great resource for advice on what to put on for the Kentucky Derby or the Whitney Museum's new opening -- but not a Tuesday morning at a law firm. Here's some advice that seeks to fill that gap:

Wonder why some lawyers insist on printing out all their cases and briefs? Not because they hate trees, but because a physical copy can help with retention and comprehension. Research shows that comprehension is greater with physical media, like paper, than electronic media, meaning that whoever reads your snail mail letter is likely to remember the contents better than if it had been an email.

So, when you're looking to make an impression, remember: email isn't the only option. Sometimes sending a card or letter via snail mail -- that is, the actual, physical postal system -- can really make you stand out.

Welcome to "First Week at the Firm," a new FindLaw feature for beginning associates, focused on helping you navigate the transition into firm life. We hope you'll enjoy this new series and come back regularly for more insider tips.

There's no way around it. You are going to embarrass yourself at work. Whether it's something simple, like forgetting a name, or something more significant, like botching a client meeting, embarrassment is bound to get you sooner or later.

While you may feel like you want to crawl into a hole and die, realize that this too shall pass. In that spirit, here are some things to do when, not if, you embarrass yourself:

Unfortunately, a lot of a lawyer's life involves going to other people for help, whether it's a clerk, a secretary, a senior associate, or even opposing counsel. You can't do the job just on your own.

There's a learning curve to figuring out who you should talk to in which situations. You can waste a lot of time by talking to the wrong person. A lot of billable time. So who's the right person to talk to?

Workplace committees aren't the most glamorous things. Sometimes they're even openly derided. Think, for example, back to "The Office," which often pilloried the petty tyranny of the Party Planning Committee.

Don't give much weight to the jokes. Firm committees do a lot more than setting up the holiday party. In many firms, committees are a way to get involved in important firm business, such as employee benefits and recruiting strategies. Working on a committee can allow you to demonstrate leadership and help you stand out from the herd.

Of course, it isn't all sunshine and lollipops. So here are some things to keep in mind if you're considering joining a committee at your firm:

As the weather gets warmer, law students can be sure of two things: final exams and summertime. For some students, "summertime" means relaxing on a beach, but many 2Ls will find themselves making adult amounts of cash as summer associates.

If they say their prayers and eat their vegetables, they might just leave the firm in August with a job offer following graduation. Then again, this is a prime opportunity for a royal screw-up. Here's a roundup of some of our best advice for being a great summer associates.

Spring is here! It's time to shove the winter coats and formal goulashes to the back of the closet and start pulling out your new, sunnier attire.

The basic rules still apply. Dress formally and conservatively to court, keep yourself well groomed, and no wire hangers, ever. With those down, here's a few more tips to get you through the spring months and into summer: