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First Week at the Firm: 3 Things You Need to Get Used to Hearing

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on July 21, 2015 11:58 AM

Welcome to "First Week at the Firm," a 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.

Hello, new associate! There's a lot of unique, variable, and engaging work ahead of you -- some day. In the mean time, you'll be getting used to life as a new associate. Here are three things you'll soon be hearing over and over as you start your career as a lawyer.

1. Criticism

If law school didn't convince you that you weren't as smart as you thought, your bosses at the firm certainly will. That memo you rewrote three times? The one you stayed at work until midnight to polish off? It's not very good.

Your work will be criticized, ignored, or unappreciated -- it's simply inevitable. Don't take it personally. Criticism is how we learn and if you're in a good firm, the criticism won't be too harsh or too personal, but something constructive.

2. "Make It Shorter"

A lot of the unavoidable criticism you will receive as a new associate will be about the length of your written work. Get ready to pare your writing down. Then down further. The firm's partners are busy and will want to read only what is essential, especially when it comes to memos. While your exegesis on the origin of trust accounts may be fascinating (they started as a way to help monks get around their pesky vows of poverty!), it won't be appreciated.

Paring down your writing isn't as difficult as it might seem. Many new associates want to cram their memos with a ton of information, to let the partners know that they, the associates, are knowledgeable about every aspect of the law. Ignore that impulse. Keep just what is absolutely necessary. If more info is needed, you'll be asked for it -- and you'll already have it on hand.

3. "This Is How We Do Things Here"

Each firm is its own unique ecosystem, with its own way of filing things, writing memos, dealing with colleagues, etc. These idiosyncrasies are something every new associate needs to learn. If they sound inefficient or ridiculous, just let them go for now. You can fix those problems well after your first week -- perhaps when you make partner.

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