Monday, May 08, 2006

The previous post lists five pieces of advice for summer associates. I said I would share five more today, and, unlike too many of my associates, when I say I'll do something, I don't make excuses about sick relatives and immigration issues. I just do it.

6. Dress like your parents. It's easy to pick out the summer associates who've never had a job before. You're the ones wearing shorts to work. I recognize we've started sliding down that slippery slope of appropriate business dress, and I don't expect you to wear a suit to work. But I do expect you to wear a shirt. I do expect you to wear shoes. I do expect you to limit yourself to the narrow range of the color spectrum that the world has deemed appropriate for business environments. In some respects I understand that for men this is much easier than for women. Women have all sorts of options, most of which I don't know enough about to criticize. Women get a free pass as long as whatever you're wearing looks sensible enough. But don't dress like that insipid character in the Legally Blonde movies, don't wear things that are four sizes too small, don't wear things that show off your shape if your shape is the same shape as a military vehicle. Men should be able to navigate this terrain fairly easily, but there are always a few each summer who don't. Shirts come in two colors: white and blue. There are enough different shades of blue that you should be able to satisfy your urge to be different. I'll accept an occasional yellow, maybe a tan. But when guys are walking around the halls wearing purple and green, you've gone too far. Bold colors are too bold for work. Shiny fabrics are too shiny for the office. If your shirt reflects light, it also reflects poorly on your common sense. Buttons are on shirts for a reason. Use almost all of them, please. Socks should not be white. Neither should your pants or your shoes. The best advice is to follow this rule of thumb: If it's something you wouldn't wear to a funeral, don't wear it to the office.

7. Share your gossip. Others might pitch this as "be friendly," but I'm not going to patronize you. Law firms, like law school, are like high school. It's a small community and since none of us ever get to leave and spend time with people outside the firm, it's very insular and finding out people's secrets is very exciting. If you know something, tell someone. It will make our day. If you tell me you saw one of the other partners masturbating in the bathroom, I'll pretend that's inappropriate information to be spreading around, but I'll make a mental note that you're just the kind of observant associate that's good to have around. And then I'll e-mail all of my colleagues about it and we'll have a good laugh. Gossip about your fellow summer associates is especially valuable. Think of it like the honor code. If you don't report it, you're guilty of an offense as bad as whatever the crime. It's very hard for someone to do something bad enough so as to not get an offer at the end of the summer, but that doesn't mean I don't want to know who's making out with who in the firm's rooftop attorney lounge. Keeps the job interesting. You will make friends and become invaluable if people know you're a source for the latest news.

8. Badmouth other firms. You all interviewed at other firms, and you have friends at other firms this summer who I presume you'll be talking to. You'll have stories. Share them. It's helpful for recruiting, and it's a great way to make friends with associates and partners. We know we're the best firm out there, and it's always nice to hear that validated by your stories. Tell me how much better a job I'm doing than my hiring partner colleagues elsewhere. I'll like you more if you do.

9. Keep law firm food where it belongs. Every year there are summer associates who take the extra food from law firm events and bring it back to their secretaries. It's not for your secretaries. It's for you, or it's for the garbage. Someone once took a plate out to a homeless guy. If you want to feed the homeless, do pro bono work. If you want to work at a law firm, know that the trash goes to waste. That's the way it's always been and the way it always will be. Working at a firm has its privileges. The more we help others rise to our status in life, the less of a premium there will remain on being one of us. People talk about the disparity between rich and poor as if it's a bad thing, but it's a societal motivator. Every cookie the law firm pays for that you bring home to your little brother is one less reason for your little brother to go to law school and become part of the next generation of associates we can take advantage of.

10. Act like you love it here, but don't go overboard. You're fortunate to be here. You know that and we know that. Act like it, but don't be an idiot. Smile, do everything you're told, act appropriately deferential, but you don't have to act like a paralegal. You're not the slaves, they are. You'll do some busy-work, but you don't have to clean up trash and no one should ask you to. And if they do, just find a paralegal or a secretary, act like you own them, speak in a stern voice, and they'll obey, just like they've been trained to do. You're higher on the food chain than they are. In the event of an earthquake that wipes out all food supplies, they will be eaten before you will be. Remember that. Take the hierarchy seriously. Deferential to those above you, but don't take it to an extreme. You're still more important than the recruiting coordinators.

If anyone has any additional advice, feel free to e-mail me and I will post anything of value that I receive. In any case, I wish all of the summer associates, at whatever firm you'll be working at, the best of luck this year. I expect I'll think of more advice to share in the coming days.

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