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Life as a young associate – difficult indeed

By September 15, 2003law practice

Sherry Fowler has some very frank observations about the bewilderment that young associates feel when they are given assignments with minimal information. For what it’s worth, I would say to young associates: don’t feel inadequate; none of the self-assured, middle-aged lawyers that you see preening and pontificating knew much of anything when they started practicing law. A lot of them still don’t know very much. Instead of learning the difficult art of using judgment, they’ve spent their energies trying to cover up their inadequacies by ordering associates around in a magisterial fashion. Avoid these lawyers like the plague; the combination of ego and fear makes them desperate and dangerous.

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  • I agree with Ernie that too many lawyers fail to take the time to give enough information, time and attention to associates. Fumbling around with a large file in no way assures that the associate has the needed information or context, but clearly wastes the associate’s time and the clients money.

    Sherry, you don’t sound lazy or shy. In fact, a like your perspective and your style.

  • Sherry says:

    Egads. Did I come across as lazy or shy? I try not to be either one. Obviously we associates should ask for more info whenever we can. But there are some partners who seem to think we don’t need context, who disappear or get curt and abrupt when we go back seeking clarification. And there are times that asking for more info (e.g. talking to the client directly) feels like “selling out” the partner who didn’t tell us much — the client gets exasperated: “I already told you guys this” or “I sent that doc to you guys a month ago.” Which seems bad, yes? All I meant to do was to distinguish between being inexperienced and being DUMB/useless. Because I’m going to be inexperienced for a really long time.

  • Ernie says:

    Dave, as with all things there are no absolutes. I suspect you are also one of the lawyers who, time permitting, endeavors to provide the necessary background. My comments are more to the lawyers, and there are plenty out there, who don’t ever provide much background and don’t care if the associate has to flounder around (after all billable time = profit). An associate who doesn’t ever want to ask for more information is bad, but a partner who doesn’t ever want to provide it is worse.

  • Dave Stratton says:

    I read her post. As an associate if I got too little information,I would take the initiative and go review the file and get the additionalinformation I needed, without asking. So that would be my advice toanyone in that situation.

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