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Over the past 10 years, technological advances in the legal profession have transformed the way many lawyers practice law. Before these advances, law students actually took class notes with a pen and paper; having a laptop was almost unheard of; e-mail was just becoming popular; and “www” was a term known only by a few. But with the explosion of the Internet, the practice of law changed quickly and dramatically, one of the most noticeable changes being the ability to have remote access to a firm database from anywhere an Internet connection can be found. Before remote access, a lawyer was essentially able to work only while physically present at the office. As a result, face time, or showing up so everyone could see the lawyer was working, was not only good for a new associate’s career, but it also was expected. Seasoned lawyers love to tell tales of the King Attorney who roamed the halls at night and on weekends to note which associates were present, begging the question: Has the ability to work from home � or any other location � changed the dynamics of face time in the office? Because the value of face time varies from firm to firm, I engaged in an unscientific survey of Texas lawyers on where their firms stand on the practice these days. While their answers were wide-ranging, there was one constant belief: Associates need to be physically in the office during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Most firms require it, and there are many reasons it is necessary to one’s legal career. It is imperative that new associates be present in the office during normal business hours so they can meet other lawyers, obtain work and start forming relationships. If an associate is not sitting in her office when a partner comes by to give an assignment, the partner will move on to the next associate. This will not only adversely affect the amount of work the associate receives, but when she becomes eligible to make partner, she will not have made the connections necessary to support her application. By working in the office, the associate has the opportunity to be seen and become respected by the partners � both as a person and as an employee. These personal relationships simply cannot be built remotely and are critical to one’s career. Working for the Weekend If showing up during normal business hours is still expected, have expectations for after-hours and weekend face time changed? It seems the smaller and more tight-knit the firm, the less after-hours face time is necessary. However, even lawyers in small firms think after-hours face time is beneficial, and there is a rationale for this. New associates are just beginning to make an impression on their co-workers � particularly the partners with whom they will be working. Some of the most important impressions that must be made by associates involve reliability and dependability. In essence, partners must know that associates are hard workers who are accessible days, nights and weekends if necessary. This may sound ominous to new associates, but it does not mean they should come in on weekends or stay late at night just to surf the Internet and push paper. Associates should be smart about how they use their after-hours face time in the office. A good rule of thumb is to take cues from the partner with whom the associate works. An associate should strive to get to the office five minutes before the partner arrives and leave shortly after the partner leaves at night. If an associate is working on a project with a particular partner and is aware that the partner will be in the office over the weekend, the associate should be sure to show up at the office as well and offer assistance. At the least, when something the associate is working on is time-sensitive, he should always offer to stay late or help on weekends to get it finished. The partner may not need the assistance, but at least the partner knows the associate is dedicated and willing to work hard. Although weekend and after-hours face time is still important, in some instances “virtual face time” can be an adequate substitute. If a new associate is working on a project and not needed physically in the office, he can inform the partner that he plans to work on the project over the weekend or later that night from home and will send the partner a draft when it is complete. The key to virtual face time, however, is actually delivering the work when promised. The main goal is to give the partner the impression that the associate is there when needed and getting the job done. Sometimes, just offering to work from home over the weekend will do the trick. Beware, however, that virtual face time should never be used as a consistent substitute for after-hours office face time, especially if the partner will be in the office working on the same project and might need assistance. Being physically present in the office allows the partner to give feedback to the associate about the project and any special instructions. This is frustrating to do through e-mails and multiple telephone calls if an associate is working remotely. In essence, being physically present in the office allows an associate to better serve the partner with whom he works. While virtual face time is not always an adequate substitute for office face time, there are instances when it is necessary. Before remote access and BlackBerry devices were available, taking a vacation or a long weekend meant that a lawyer was unreachable and essentially unable to work. The addition of remote access has changed that. At a minimum, the associate’s BlackBerry should be checked a few times a day, and she should respond as necessary. Simply disappearing is never an option, unless it is a honeymoon or funeral. If unexpected and time-sensitive work arrives, the associate should attempt to make himself available to work, if at all possible. Obviously, the ability to work will depend on the associate’s location, but showing a willingness to work � even on vacation � will create a lasting impression. In a world of billable hours, face time, while still important, will always take a back seat to productivity. An associate can come in every weekend and stay late every night, but if he is not productive, that time is essentially lost. Use face time wisely and only when it will count. Remember, once impressions form, and an associate proves she is dependable, reliable and hard-working, the need for and value of face time diminishes. Until then, new associates should face up to the necessity of face time at work. Dionne Carney Rainey is a partner in Hunton & Williams in Dallas. She focuses on commercial litigation and electronic discovery matters.

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