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Avoid These 11 Rookie Associate Mistakes

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You're an incoming associate at a prestigious law firm. First all, congratulations! Second of all, don't screw up!

Working with lawyers in a law firm can be the road to unparalleled success, wealth, and social prestige. But, it is also full of landmines that can blow up your career if you're not careful to avoid them. To help you succeed in your new life as a very important attorney, here are 11 things not to do, if you want to stay out of trouble:

1. Have a Bad Attitude. Your job is going to be dull, and full of lots of mindless work that has nothing to do with any of your academic interests or career goals, but you're going to have to just get over it. After all, you're lucky to have any job at all in this economy!

2. Don't Finish What You Start. Common sense may say that getting a memo 85% of the way done should entitle the firm to 85% of what they were owed, so the firm won't be that upset with you for failing to complete a project. But as it turns out, clients don't like it when a contract ends before the signature page, or a partner is forced to stop mid-sentence in his closing argument. Always finish the work.

3. Hand Off Projects. It's easy to think that your high salary means that there are certain menial tasks that you can delegate because they're beneath you, or larger projects that can be given away because you're too busy. You'd be wrong though. The only person who can part ways with an assignment is the part-ner. Get it?!

4. Get Wrapped Up in the Billable Hour. Your firm may have a minimum billable hour requirement, and hours based bonuses, but don't focus just on the number of hours you spend on something. There's another that demands your attention even more: the quality of your work! Don't worry if you're not getting as many hours as you need to keep your job. If you keep your nose to the grind stone and work really hard, partners will take notice and give you even more work to do. Funny the way things work out!

5. Have an Office Romance. You'd think the shoddy appearance of your coworkers would be enough to keep lawyers' hands to themselves, but you'd be surprised how low some people will go. People think they can keep work and personal life separate, but your emotions don't know whether you're in the bedroom or the boardroom. So, avoid office romance at all costs, and opt for meaningless, no-strings-attached sex with your coworkers instead!

6. Wait Around. So, you've finished all your work, told the assigning attorney you're free, but haven't been given something new yet? Be pro-active! Call up the last client you worked for yourself, and ask them if there's anything for you to work on. The partners at your firm will appreciate your drive to develop business!

7. Get Distracted by Internet and Social Media. Yes, your firm has given you a computer, with internet access, and hasn't blocked sites like Facebook and Twitter. But, as strange as it may sound, this is not implied permission to surf those sites and the rest of the internet all day instead of doing your job. Whenever you open your web browser ask yourself, "Am I about to do something a client will pay for?" If not, you're probably off task.

8. Be Satisfied With Mediocre Writing. It may be unfair, since you do know more about the law than the other people at the firm, but it turns out that you will be judged on the quality of your writing, not just the ideas that writing discusses. Be sure to proof read everything (twice if it's important), and keep your lolspeak limited to first drafts and e-mails.

9. Be Inaccessible. Keeping your door closed and locked is a sure way to get on the bad side of the boss. Even if you're busy at work on something, the boss still may want to pop in for a chat. Closing your door a lot will make people suspect you're doing #7! ...Or #5!

10. Hide Your Mistakes. You're being dropped into a high-pressure job that requires specialized knowledge and well-honed skills, none of which you got in law school. Fact of the matter is, you're going to make some mistakes. It's okay though! When you admit your mistakes, that just means you get more billable work as you go back and fix them!

11. Wear Soiled Underwear. Life as a lawyer can be very hectic and time consuming. Make sure that every 1-2 weeks you're setting aside enough time to get your laundry done. If you are particularly busy, there are services that will let you drop off your laundry and will charge by the pound to clean it. And remember, you're never too busy to use the bathroom. A crap in the pants is a crap in the pants of your career!

[Read more from Lawyerlite]

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