Junior Associate #1 - 20 Ground Rules
Some time ago a wrote a post for another blog in which I tried to set out what I believe are 20 ground rules in the relationship between the associates of a firm (including partners) and the junior associates/trainees (the “Juniors”). It is a relationship with plenty of difficulties. Of course most of the associates were previously Juniors, but they normally tend to miss various ground rules and take things for granted that they shouldn’t.
It’s key to work on a good “associate – Juniors” relationship basis. We have to bear in mind that it is the Juniors who help them to do their job better and who normally do all the “dirty work”. Yes, of course all that later comes back to the Juniors as expertise and experience, but that doesn’t imply that such works shouldn't be asked for nicely. Juniors work better if their relationship with the associate is fluent and if their help is requested nicely.
From my experience (and my colleagues’ experience) in Spain, I managed to list 20 ground rules that in my opinion any associate should always take into account (allow me to list them as a conversation with the associate):
Yes, even if I look older, I’m new in this thing called lawyering. I have plenty to learn and study. Take that into account and be patient.
If you need something urgently, tell me so. Specially if you need me to do some research or to understand some paperwork. Bear in mind that I will always want to read another ruling, another book and another scholar’s opinion before bringing the matter back to you so I can have a better position to defend.
Research for case law may look easy and fast to you, but you really know it is not, so “keep calm and be patient“.
If I don’t find case law regarding any issue, it is probably because I am not searching the right way. When you ask me to do that research, think about that and help me so I can be more efficient.
There will be plenty of times that I will not really understand what you’re explaining to me, but I will say that I do, go back to my desk and to try to understand it by myself. If I come back with my head down, do not freak out. Trust me that it takes some guts so go back and ask for help.
There are some corporate structures that are difficult to fully understand, contracts that I have never seen and issues that I don’t know how to properly explain. I will always need your help or opinion.
If you ask me to review something, it is almost impossible that I have made myself the same questions that you would have made yourself. In some way, experience is that: making the right questions.
I still haven’t learned to be in the client’s shoes when they ask me for something.
Of course I’m nervous when I call a client for a first time. Maybe its better that you’re with me to intervene if necessary. If you can’t and I do not perform as expected, please know that I will be sorry and that I’ve tried my best (at the time). If you don’t want to be with me, thanks for the responsibility, but the same applies.
If I don’t get all the information you wanted me to get when speaking to a client, it is not all my fault. Tell me exactly what you want me to find out and I will ask for it, but until I have some experience, I will not be able to go further.
I know you like to draft things your own way. You’re not the only one that I work with and I have to adapt to each one of you. It is not easy.
There are plenty of aspects of the transactions I am normally not aware of, specially if you don’t involve me since the beginning of the project. If you’ve hired me, that means I’m not stupid. So stop for a moment and think if I have all the documentation prior to losing your nerves.
Be quick and learning are two concepts that are normally at odds. Usually, one or the other.
When I don't do something perfect, bear in mind that it is normal and that I will try not to do it again.
If I fail, let me know, but when I succeeded, also let me know. When I’m above expectations, a little bit of flattering keeps our confidence up.
I am available 24/7, but if you’re going to mess with my weekend, an entire night or my vacation, don’t assume that it is my preferred plan. Tell me that you appreciate those efforts we make for you.
When I’m up working until 5 in the morning, the next day I’m going to be tired and I will try to be at my 100%, but be mindful of that and understand if I'm not at my best. Believe me when I say that I’m trying.
Don’t ask me to do something at 9 pm on a Friday if it can wait until Monday. Better, don’t ask me to do something after 9 pm if you can ask for ir next day first thing in the morning. If I need work, don’t worry, I will come to you.
Like you, I have a personal life and, therefore, I will also have personal probelms that may distract me.
YOU DON’T PAY ME TO “KEEP THE CHAIR WARM” DOING NOTHING ("calentar la silla", in Spanish). If I can go home, tell me to go.
If you’re a Junior, this is a good list on what you will understand upon starting in the practice of law. You have to learn to play with the personality and humour of your colleagues in order to see when is the right time to say everything.