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First Week at the Firm: How to Get One-on-One Time With Partners

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on June 08, 2015 11:58 AM

Welcome to "First Week at the Firm," FindLaw's series 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.

Even if you're working yourself to death making all your hours and then some, you won't be making the most out of your time at the firm if you're not forging relationships with partners and senior attorneys. That's hard to do with just a beautifully crafted memo -- you need one-on-one time with the attorneys who matter.

One-on-one time helps build trust between associates and their advisers or managers, which can increase access to important conversations, participation in strategic decisions and ultimately advancement. Here' some tips on how to get it.

Follow the Culture

When you join a firm, one of your most important jobs -- in addition to making all your billable hours -- is to figure out the culture of the firm. How do associates interact with supervising attorneys and partners? Does the firm have a more casual, open door policy governing interactions between new associates and superiors, or are there a series of gatekeepers making sure that a partner's busy time isn't taken up by every new associate looking to brown nose?

How do you tell? Well, first, observe. Just watching how partners interact with junior lawyers can tell you most of what you need to know. Also, don't be afraid to depend on that network of new firm friends you're making. They'll be an invaluable source of information on firm culture and practices.

Start Small

The best way to get one-on-one time is to start small. When you've finished a project, ask for a quick meeting to confer with the assigning attorney for feedback. Sure, your assigning attorney may not be a founding partner, but that doesn't mean they're not an important relationship to develop. After a few meetings you should be able to create a rapport. Once that's happened, consider asking the attorney to join you for lunch, drinks, or just more general discussions about the firm and your place within it.

There's More than Lunch

If attorneys at your firm are busy, running from meeting to meeting or traveling between the firm's various offices, it might be on you to take the lead. That means you'll need to find time to interact whenever you can steal a moment. That's fine, since impressions aren't just made over office lunches or steak dinners.

Take the lead in connecting with superior attorneys by catching a casual one-on-one conversation on your way to or from a client meeting. Get involved at the firm by joining an office committee, helping with interviews or taking the lead in one of the partners' favorite pro bono areas. Or how about a stand-up meeting? These are used frequently at tech companies and can be a great way to get some face time without putting a crimp in anyone's billables.

Sure, you'll be busy enough simply practicing law in your first week at the firm. But remember, succeeding at a firm is about more than just getting the law under your belt -- it's about integrating yourself into the firm and making yourself stand out from the dozens of other associates who many just be passing through. Getting much needed one-on-one time with the firm's partners and senior attorneys is just the first step in that process.

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