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'Fall' Into Place at Your Firm: 5 Tips for New Associates

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By William Peacock, Esq. on September 23, 2014 9:21 AM

It's time! Bar review is done. Bar exam is done. It's officially fall, and it's time to get to work.

For many of you, that means heading into the hallowed halls of BigLaw. Others will ply their trade for less pay, but arguably more noble causes. No matter where your shingle is hung, however, you are now joining the ranks of the working legal professionals.

Congratulations. Now don't screw it up. Here are five tips for new fall hires:

1. Be Coachable.

You know what frustrates as a supervisor more than anything? When you fix someone's mistakes, yet they repeat them over and over and over again. Back in July, when summer associate-ships were starting up, we advised law students to be coachable: Listen actively, take the feedback, and make adjustments. Making mistakes is OK, but repeating mistakes is not.

2. Be Sociable (Within Reason).

At work, you are a drone. Partners see you, give you work, and you may, after a few years of outstanding work, stand out a bit from the crowd. But considering most first-year work is grunt work (like document review), opportunities to do so are limited.

That's where social events, like office happy hours, come in handy. These are your opportunity to step out of your lawyer shoes and into your human shoes. Let your bosses get to know you. Just be sure you don't do anything stupid, like get nauseatingly drunk or sexually harass a coworker.

3. Be Professionally Attired.

We know, we know .. the wardrobe advice is getting a little tired, so we'll keep it brief: Dress like a professional, including the eyewear.

4. Be Appreciative of Everyone (Especially Support Staff).

One of the most repeated pieces of advice that I heard in my law school days was to be nice to the support staff when you make it into the real world. To me, the advice was so oft-stated that it was beginning to sound like a cliché. And it also seemed obvious (especially to me, a guy who has worked in every customer service gig imaginable).

But it's true. And you'd be surprised how many people are so busy stalking their supervisors to notice or appreciate the hard work that the paralegals, secretaries, and office managers do. Just don't get one of those gifts.

5. Be Your Fabulous Self.

A lot of the above advice is about reining yourself in. But don't let fear turn you into a wallflower or a drone. Much of your advancement in your career is going to come through personal relationships or networking. Fellow associates will lateral into other firms. Partners will consider your name for their ranks in a few long years. You want friends in all places, not co-workers and acquaintances.

Any more tips for new fall hires at law firms? Let us know via Twitter (@FindLawLP) or Facebook (FindLaw for Legal Professionals).

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