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How to Make a Good First Impression at Your Firm

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on July 19, 2016 12:57 PM

You've landed your dream legal job and you're ready to start your career as a superstar lawyer. But, unless you're starting off at the smallest of firms, you're not going to be entering the firm alone.

So how do you make yourself stand out from the rest of your associate cohort? To make an impression on the firm's partners? Here's how.

To Leave an Impression, Show You Care

If you want to impress your firm's higher-ups, you've got to make them see that you care. I know, I know, "show you care" is the kind of empty platitude that can be given as advice in pretty much any situation. So let's flesh this out.

When you're starting off at a new firm, what does it mean to show that you care? Part of that is simply doing the work. Just like in law school, putting in long hours and making sure your work is impeccable is going to help you get to the head of the class.

Beyond that, showing that you care also means showing that you're engaged, not just with the specific legal issue you're working on, but with the client, industry, and context of the legal problem. Franci Blassberg, the first woman corporate partner at Debevoise (who is currently retired and of counsel there), has some advice on how to get engaged. Writing in Bloomberg, she tells young lawyers:

If you learn something about the client and its industry, you'll be able to put your work in context, and it will automatically become more interesting. Ask informed questions by reading the trade press or even the business sections of the newspaper.

Act Like You Belong

Part of making a good impression is also blending in. In order to stand out, you've got to look and act like you belong there. "Learn the culture of your workplace by watching others who are well regarded," Blassberg recommends.

Is this an uber formal, white shoe firm? Dress the part. Or maybe it's an IP boutique, where attorneys are as much tech nerds as lawyers. Buy a drone. If it's super friendly, make sure you learn everyone's name. If it's not, practice a bit of polite aloofness. You get the drift.

But remember, you don't need to copy everything that lawyers at your firm do. Take the aspects of the firm culture that are right for you, and leave the rest behind. After all, you still need your own personality in order to stand out. You want to blend in, not fade away into the background.

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