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Do you remember that first day of law school? That pit in the bottom of your stomach that would not go away. When you had said good-bye to your friends and family — telling them that you would not be able to speak to them for the next few months and could be found in the library from that day until the end of the semester or even the school year. By the time you were a third-year law student, you no doubt looked back on that time and chuckled. Welcome to your first year as an associate at a New York law firm. In the coming months and years you are going to learn tremendous amounts about the practice of law, just as you learned tremendous amounts during your first year of law school. But you won’t just be learning; you will be representing real-life clients in cases and transactions. In today’s booming economy, there is an ever-increasing amount of work to be done and you are going to have a busy year filled with new experiences. We don’t mean to scare you, but from now on you will be adjusting your life to fit around your schedule at the office, which can be a difficult transition. Do not despair; you will be able to see people and to socialize. It is possible to still have a life; it will just take some work. (Pardon the pun). There have even been rumors of associates having and maintaining romantic relationships. We were once first-year associates and we ran into many of the stresses and obstacles you will meet along the way. Hopefully, we can offer some helpful advice. KNOW AHEAD OF TIME You know that you are going to be working hard and putting in long hours as you learn to practice law at a high level. You know that the free time of your third year of law school is a thing of the past. You are starting a new professional experience and, at least at the start, you won’t be able to control your schedule. Let those important to you know this and that you need some leeway while you acclimate yourself to your new environment. When you start practicing law, it can be difficult to know when you will be busy and when you will have some free time. You will be getting important assignments that require extended and immediate attention. After all, if it was going to be easy, they wouldn’t need you or your firm. You may have to cancel plans or disappoint people because of the demands of your job. Trust us, as time goes by, you will better understand how your job works and will learn how to better keep your life in balance. TIME FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS Every first-year’s nightmare is that special once-in-a-lifetime occasion that comes right in the middle of a crunch time at work. Don’t panic. If it is important to you, and you can re-shuffle your schedule, by all means do so. Most often, no one cares when you do the work, only that it gets done right and on time. Organize and plan to be available for what is important outside of work. Let your co-workers know that you are planning something special and that it means a lot to you. Your colleagues will help you out — after all, you are all on the same team. But remember, if the research is due on Tuesday, and you have plans on Monday night, your best bet is to have it finished before you leave. Here is a professional secret. Your firm is going to be investing many thousands of dollars in training in you and is looking at every possible way to retain you. They know that if they let work interfere too much with what matters most to you, they are going to lose you and their investment. No one gains by keeping you away from important personal events, and you will be surprised how much accommodation you will get if your requests are reasonable and you do all you can to help the team. PLAN TO BE SPONTANEOUS Okay, we know that planning spontaneous behavior is an oxymoron, but it may save your sanity. Try and stay in the loop of what people are planning and what is going on. Learn to be spontaneous and when you have free time you did not expect, try to take full advantage of it. If you thought you would be at the printer all night but are done at 6 p.m., do not just go home and watch television. Take a loved one to dinner on the spur of the moment. There are too many times when you become unexpectedly too busy to squander the free time you never thought you would have. USE EVERY ADVANTAGE Everyone you work with is under the same demands as you. They appear to have better balance in their lives because they have had more time to learn how to use every advantage to balance their lives. There are hundreds of tips, tricks and ideas and not all of them will work for you. Can you work at home with a laptop? Can you work on the train? Would you have more free time if you came into work earlier? Assess your options early and often. Seek out every advantage you can to do your work thoroughly and efficiently. Efficiency is the key. You have too many demands on your time not to be as efficient as possible. Quite literally, the time you save is often your own. SOCIALIZING AT WORK Every firm has planned events during the course of the year, and you should try to attend at least some of them. It will give you a chance to get to know the people at your firm in a more relaxed atmosphere. Most of the attorneys in your firm have made the adjustment from law student to busy associate, and many can give you wonderful advice as to how they have managed to do so successfully. Talk to the other junior associates about how they manage to balance their lives and their work schedules, and listen to stories that more senior associates tell about their experiences as first-year associates. However, remember that senior associates always truly believe that they had it much worse than you. Do not believe them. Do not overlook the firm as a resource for meeting people and socializing. Work is a wonderful place to meet people that you now have a lot in common with. Remember, you will be spending a lot of time at the firm, and it is a good way to make that experience a more enjoyable one. You won’t believe us, but we have met some very important people in our lives through our firm. WHAT ABOUT ME? Finding time for your life also means trying to find time for yourself. You may have time for a social event but just not have the energy for it. Sometimes, spending a day alone in your apartment or going for a long walk is just what the doctor ordered. Try to keep the stress at a manageable level, and remember to take time for yourself. THE END? We did not write this article to scare you or to make you reconsider your career choice. We are just trying to give you tips and pointers that we have used (or wish that we had used) when we were first-year associates. The most important thing is to try to find the right balance for your life and to keep your expectations real. The transition from student to professional is a difficult one, and hopefully our advice will make it a little easier. Trust us, in a few short months, you will be an old pro. Jeffrey A. Fuisz is counsel, and Alison McKinnell is an associate, at New York-based Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler.

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