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Valerie Fitch suggested a subtitle for “What I Wish I’d Known When I Started,” among the livelier seminars of a recent three-day workshop conducted for 35 young lawyers from the East Coast offices of Pillsbury Winthrop. “It’s the real poop!” said Fitch, the firm’s director of attorney development, referring to what was officially called “East Coast FYI — First-Year Information Training Program,” held at the firm’s Battery Park headquarters in New York. So real was the “Wish” seminar that it was only open to visitors — including even Fitch — during the initial hour. Afterward, Pillsbury first-years from New York, northern Virginia, Stamford, Conn., and Washington, D.C., received counsel from their Class of 2000 elders — free of eavesdroppers, and with the benefit of gratis libations. One such elder, J. Christopher Clifton, a corporate associate from Stamford, set the easygoing tone by admitting, “I’m here basically because I made a lot of mistakes in my first year.” His colleague from Pillsbury’s New York office, Colleen Tarpey, then deciphered the meaning behind examples of the often inscrutable queries and commands issuing from partners. For instance, said Tarpey: “When the partner says, ‘What’s your availability like?’ “ Here, she suggested a variety of wrong answers versus the politic response, as well as a helpful rule of thumb for tyros when responding to the big cheeses. “Drinks, my place — say 7:30?” That, said Tarpey, would definitely be wrong. Along with, “I’m not interested in that type of work — but hey, thanks for asking.” Better, she said: “I have a few things going on, but what is it you need? I’d love to help if I can.” As a matter of course, she added, “Never say you’re busy when you’re not. It will come back to haunt you.” Another perplexing pattern of partnerspeak: “When the partner says, ‘Read this 300-page trust indenture and tell me what you think.’ “ Tarpey said there was no need of reading all night through such a snore. “Skim it, glean the essential message,” she said, “and then get back to me with questions on the real assignment.” Bottom line, she said: “Watch out for vague assignments.” What should a first-year do, she further asked, when a partner gives direction such as this: “Draft an agreement brief that says x, y and z.” The correct response, she said: “Ask for a precedent. There’s almost never a need to reinvent the wheel.” And furthermore, “There really is no such thing as a draft. It should be Bluebooked, and grammatically correct. It should be your best work.” Tarpey and Clifton were aided in the first hour’s lowdown by fellow associates Heather Conoboy and Heather Cowie of New York; Daniel E. Yonan of northern Virginia; and Don Riccitelli of Stamford. Just before the session excused all onlookers, the bugbear of all bugbears was considered: the screaming partner. By this time, a New York first-year had gotten the spirit. He answered: “I’d try speaking a little lower than the partner and say, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t understand what you just yelled.’ Then I’d call a headhunter.” Translations: What Partners Really Want

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