One of the best ways you can make a great impression as a junior lawyer is to take ownership over your projects, meaning you add value to your teams by going above and beyond in smart, helpful ways. That’s a bit of a confusing concept for some, so here are three ways to take ownership in your matters:
Own the Workstream
A competent junior lawyer will do the work that is asked of them on time. A great junior lawyer will think ahead to potential next steps. If you were asked to research a discovery issue to prepare for a meet and confer with opposing counsel, next steps might include drafting talking points on the issue for the partner leading the call. Or asking to join the call to discuss the issue yourself or take notes so you can draft a position letter to opposing counsel after the meet and confer. Try to anticipate what comes next and offer to do it or at least present possible paths forward for your supervising attorney to consider. This demonstrates that you are invested in the outcome, not just your discrete task.
Stay on Top of Deadlines & Project Status
Regularly review or create a calendar for your cases or matters. Check to see what’s coming up soon and offer to get started on it. This helps you add value while getting to work on projects that interest you. Or, if there’s a deadline for a major brief or other document coming up this week, check in with the lead attorney on the matter and ask if you can do anything to help ahead of the deadline.
Listen for action items during calls and meetings. Circulate notes after the fact with a list of “to dos” stemming from the discussion and offer to handle some of them. Again, you’re adding value, keeping the train running on time, and retaining some control over the projects you keep. Senior lawyers will come to know that things will not fall through the cracks when you’re on the case, which makes you invaluable as a junior associate, especially if you work with partners who tend to focus on big-picture strategy and leave the details to the case team supporting them.
If a filing is due on Thursday and you need the partner to sign off on it or need information from your client, it’s not enough to email them both on Monday and sit back and wait. Follow up after 24-36 hours. Keep following up. Don’t be rude or annoying; just don’t forget about the project until it is fully done.