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1st-Year Associates: Are You Impressing Your Boss?

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By Mark Wilson, Esq. on October 08, 2014 12:39 PM

It's not enough to merely go to the office and do what you're supposed to. In a law firm, young associates have to do a little bit extra and impress their bosses -- senior associates and/or partners. After all, anyone can do what they're told, but if you want to really succeed at a law firm, you've got to go above and beyond the call of duty.

So how do you know if you're impressing the supervisors and higher-ups at your firm? Here are five questions to ask yourself:

1. Are You Asking Questions?

Asking questions is fraught with difficulty. You might worry that if you ask about something that's obvious to your boss, the boss might think you're dumb -- or, at least, not bright enough and ambitious enough to either intuit the answer on your own or figure out where to find the answer. Reality, however, is quite different. Bosses are more impressed by people who ask questions; it shows that they're inquisitive and it also lets the boss know that you understand what you're doing. There's nothing worse than spending days on a problem that could have been resolved by a question.

2. Are You Looking for Work?

Law firms are like little fiefdoms sometimes. If you find that, for some unknown reason, you can take on more work, you have to actually go ask for work. Bosses are impressed by initiative, and at law firms, partners and senior associates are either too busy or indifferent to be asking junior associates if they need more work. Impress them by actively seeking out new work -- if you can handle it.

3. Are You Hanging Out With the Firm?

Firm events aren't just there for you to have some martinis and stand around awkwardly. Even though you have a steady job, you still have to mingle. Mingle with your boss, with your boss's boss, or just make sure that you're seen at firm events. It shows that you want to become part of the firm's culture and that you have a commitment to the firm.

4. Are You Acting Like You Know What You're Doing?

Daily life can be daunting for the young associate who honestly doesn't know one thing about municipal water regulations, but has to become an expert in under a week. Even if, inwardly, you're panicking a little, leave the panic at home. At work, project confidence and be professional. Even if you're asked a question that you don't know the answer to, give your best "I don't know" in a confident way. ("You know, that's a good question. I'll check that out," and then make a note in your little notebook that you're always carrying, right?)

5. Are You Solving Problems?

Lawyers are problem-solvers. When you come to your boss with a problem, don't present it as a problem that you need him or her to fix for you. When there's a problem -- "This document should have been filed a week ago" -- don't bring it up unless you've also got the solution in your back pocket. Don't think of your boss as the person who solves your problems; solve the problem yourself and then let your boss know that it's been fixed.

Any more tips on how new associates can impress their supervisors? Let us know via Twitter (@FindLawLP) or Facebook (FindLaw for Legal Professionals).

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