A Day in the Life: Associate Attorney

Job Title: Associate Attorney

Industry: Law

Location: New York, NY

Age: 32

Gender: Female

Salary/Benefits: $280,000 plus yearly bonus (mid five-figures last year). No 401 matching.

Employer Type: Private law firm

Employer Size: 600 attorneys, a few thousand employees overall

Time in Current Position: Approx. 6 years

Highest Level of Education: Juris Doctor

Path to This Job: This is my first job out of law school. I became a lawyer because I loved research and writing and I had a vague idea I wanted to “help people.” I took out loans to pay for school and was fortunate to get a job with a big law firm right out of school, which allowed me to pay off my loans while living in NYC. I’ve been with the same firm since graduation.

A typical day at work:

7:00: Alarm goes off. Groan and hit snooze.
7:15: Get out of bed and head to the gym in my building for a quick workout. If I don’t work out in the morning, it’s not going to happen. My work schedule is too unpredictable. Read and respond to work emails on the treadmill.
8:00: Back in my apartment to get ready for work.
9:00: Out the door. I pick up a coffee on my way to the office.
9:30: At my desk and I look over my to do list for the day before digging in. I also enter my time from the day before. We have to record our time in 6-minute intervals. I keep a running list on a pad of paper throughout the day and enter it into our firm’s time recording software every morning. It’s as fun as it sounds.
9:45-11:00: I’m a litigator and a couple of my cases are in the middle of discovery, meaning I spend a lot of time on the phone negotiating with opposing counsel. I had a long call yesterday for one of my cases so I spend some time this morning reading over my notes from that call and drafting a follow-up letter to opposing counsel outlining our final positions. I send it to the partner on the case for review.
11:00-11:20: Feeling restless so I wander down the hallway to chat with a coworker.

11:20-1:00: Work on a draft motion to compel discovery from our adversary in another case, answering emails as they come in. You definitely need to be able to multi-task at this job!
1:00-1:30: Another associate swings by on her way to lunch and I grab my coat and head with her to the fancy food court around the corner. Grab a taco bowl for lunch.
1:30-2:00: Partner had a couple questions about my draft letter. I address those and send the final letter to opposing counsel.
2:00-2:30: Meet with a team of contract attorneys I supervise. They’re spending their days reviewing documents produced by the other side in one of my cases. We talk about what they’re finding in the documents and how those issues fit into broader case.
2:30-3:00: Head over to a partner’s office to sit in on a call with the client to discuss some big picture case strategy.
3:00-5:00: Review some research a junior associate sent me for the motion I was working on earlier. I give her a call to discuss some questions I have and ask her to investigate a few more issues.
5:00: Opposing counsel in one of my cases files a surprise letter motion. Great, there goes my evening. Send it around to the team. We have 3 days to respond, so the partners want to see an outline of our response ASAP, as our client will need to review before we file. I call up the other associates on the case so we can figure out how to divide and conquer.
8:00: After a couple hours of researching and writing, we circulate the outline to the partners. I shut down my computer and head home.
8:30: Get home and greet my SO, who has been traveling for work. We throw together a salad from random stuff in the fridge and catch up over dinner.
9:30: Fire up the laptop to respond to emails about the motion and our reply.
11:00: Emails have slowed down, so I put my computer away and get ready for bed.
11:30: My SO starts last week’s episode of The Good Place but I conk out a few minutes in.

My favorite thing about my career: The challenge. There’s always something new to learn about a client, a case, or practicing law, and my responsibilities grow each year.

My least favorite thing about my career: The hours can be rough. Obviously I’m super well compensated, but in return, I’m expected to be on call all the time. It can be hard on personal relationships and your health.

Skills necessary for my career: Attention to detail, adaptability, ability to think critically, and an ability to work hard and work fast.

When I was a junior employee new to the workforce, I wish I had known: Nobody cares about your career as much as you. Don’t just wait for opportunities, make them for yourself.

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Photo by Sebastian Pichler on Unsplash