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The new first-year starts in our section in a few days. For him: the glamorous prospect of crossing swords in an oak-paneled courtroom, fiercely arguing the finer points of mutual non-offensive collateral estoppel to the wonderment of the judge and chagrin of his opponent. For the rest of the firm: another question-filled baby lawyer who’s about to realize that the average afternoon at the firm doesn’t involve drinking 20-year-old single malt with the managing partner during a particularly challenging round of lawn darts. For my class and me: the new embodiment of first-years. In the coming weeks, my class will shed its first-year skin like a Hannibal Lecter acolyte. We’re handing over the reins of a legacy. The venerable first-year. The baby lawyer. The “Who the hell are you, and what are you doing in my office? Security!” Ahhh, the time-honored phrases every first-year covets. But, as we’ve all come to know, the first year does not come easy. The first-years should know that first and foremost, we’ve all been through the experience of surviving the first year at a law firm — some more than once, but that’s another story. Secondly, no matter how hard you try, no matter how much you think you know, no matter how many people you call, the best solution, at least according to the tech people, is apparently always just to shut down and reboot. And rebooting is really what it’s all about. From an out-going first-year’s perspective, what follows are some quick stress relievers that my class and I have found effective during our first year. In order to make this process as scientific as possible, I assembled a blue-ribbon panel of a few buddies, and, with various beverages freely flowing — see recommendation No. 2 — we proceeded to austerely debate the merits of various stress relievers and compile this list. Now, before you read this, I’m sure you’re thinking, “Stress? What stress? The summer associate program was cake, and they said it was just like being an associate.” This is excellent, insightful thinking that will serve you well during your first year. You have it figured out. Of course, there’s no stress. That whole lawyer-stress rumor is one big lie, perpetuated by “the committee” to fool the dental students into staying in dental school. At fruition, this plan ensures that upon graduation from tooth academy, they will be forced to work three whole days a week to support their country club lifestyle instead of potentially bumping me out of my job, which includes fun activities. Reading, in four days or less, 34 boxes of documents that comprise some 22,000 pieces of paper solely concerned with bee stings in an aluminum processing plant in New Delhi, India. Stress? Who’s stressed now? THE INTERNET No. 5. This coincidentally brings us to recommendation No. 5 on our countdown toward the No. 1 quick stress relievers enjoyed by the first-year associate class of 2000. Smoking. That’s right, “Smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em,” Grandpa always used to say, as he trudged up the Morro Castle’s gangway. Personally, I’m not a big fan, but who knows? Many people seem to enjoy it. Seriously, can it be denied that nothing seems more relaxing, refreshing or stress-relieving than inhaling the combustion byproducts of chemically soaked tobacco leaf, rolled tight, and heated past its flash point so that its incendiary end slowly creeps closer and closer to reward you with third-degree burns to your first and second fingers? Pure relaxation. And what better way to utilize those fingers? On the drive home? Of course not. Scratching out by hand that pesky motion to substitute as pro se counsel? Surely you jest. Shaking hands with that “oh-so-hopeful” 2L that is interviewing with your firm? How beneath you. However, when splayed across the firm-issued keyboard that is somehow connected to the fancy light box on your desk, these fingers can unleash the relaxing power of stress relief like nobody’s business. No. 4. From Battle Tank to Tank Commander, Fantasy Football to fantasy partnership track, the pretend world of the Internet enters the rankings as a solid No. 4. This Internet, though, is simply the gift that keeps on giving. As I understand it, e-mail depends on the Internet. If this is so, Al Gore deserves a hearty “thank you, creator” for the relaxation derived from turning a ridiculously concise 30-second phone call into a three-day e-mail exchange, complete with the requisite faux pas of forwarding the exchange to everyone in the office, if not the entire firm, at least twice. No. 3. My buddy in Dallas campaigned hard for what actually seems to be a pretty popular stress reliever: running. By this time, though, we’d all had a few drinks, and my other buddy (who proposed No. 2 and hates to run) threw him to the ground and started punching him, while buddy No. 3 (the smoker, who also hates to run) gave him some first-hand exposure to second-hand smoke. Running didn’t seem to be too stress-free that day. DRINK UP No. 2. As you might have guessed by now, stress reliever No. 2 is partaking of the beauty that is the fermentation process. In vino veritas. For better or worse (insert your own Tequila joke here), “the grape” (or “the barley,” “the potato,” “the grain,” etc.) is quite popular for erasing all sorts of stress whether you are a first-year associate, associate, mid-level associate, senior associate, supervisory senior associate, partner, etc. Partner, you ask? Stressed, you ask? Of course. First-year associate stress only includes meeting new people, starting an entirely new profession, waiting for the bar results that “you hope you didn’t do so bad on,” learning exactly what a Dictaphone is for, and realizing that someone is actually paying good money for your advice. Partner stress is apparently much worse. Space is limited here, so check out these articles: “Economies of Scale: Caring for and Scheduling Your Household Help Around Your Month-Long Extended Cayman Vacation” and “Associate Mentoring: The Cane or the Whip?” No. 1. Seriously, though, as a (just) has-been first-year, the best piece of advice on stress relief that I can give is to make use of your friendships. Go grab some beers, play golf, go to the game or just hang out. I’ve found that just sitting around, playing some “Golden Tee” and drinking a few beers — not necessarily in that order — is the best stress relief imaginable. Until someone starts talking about running. Bowe Daniels is an associate at Fulbright & Jaworski in Houston.

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