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This is the time of year when new associates join The Firm. Fresh out of law school, these new lawyers come to The Firm ready, willing and able to practice law. Law school was long and now it’s time to do some real legal work. Ready, willing and able — or not — it’s probably going to be a few years before you get to do any real legal work. For me, it wasn’t until my fourth year as a lawyer that I did anything that could objectively be called the practice of law. That was when they trusted me enough to actually speak to a client. Looking back on it, a lot of money was wasted on paying my bar dues for those first few years. Sure, during my first years I told people I was a lawyer, especially those young professionals who I came across at cocktail parties. It was just so much easier to say I practiced law for a living instead of trying to explain what my job at The Firm right out of law school was actually like. Plus, it’s so embarrassing to break down crying at cocktail parties while trying to explain it. What it was actually like was, well … as I mentioned above, hard to explain. Judging by the type of work you do during your first year as an associate, you’re not really a lawyer yet. You’re also no longer a law clerk and you aren’t a paralegal (it will be a long time before you reach their level). You are also no longer a summer associate. All those terribly interesting and fun projects you were assigned in between your second and third year of law school suddenly disappear after you sign up as an attorney. You hear about some lawyers who jump right into it — they’re in court, they’re negotiating deals, they’re rendering legal advice to real clients. These people don’t work at The Firm. Some or all of those things may be in your future but first you have to prove yourself. And how does a new associate prove herself as an attorney? Mostly by doing things that have little to do with practicing law. All that being said, you do end up learning a lot during your first year at The Firm. Most of those things learned, however, don’t pertain to the practice of law. The best things you learn are described below. 1. What time FedEx makes its last pick up of the day. 2. How long it takes to sprint to FedEx carrying six packages containing 3,000 pages of documents each. 3. Where to order late-night dinners that will be eaten at your desk. I’ll share one piece of wisdom from my first year: Some hotels, if close enough, will deliver room service to The Firm. 4. How to fix a jam in the copying machine. 5. Word processing tips you can share with partners who call you into their office asking for help with their computers. 6. All kinds of grammatical rules that you haven’t visited since high school composition. As a first-year lawyer, they will be your most valuable tool in your most time-consuming task — proofreading documents prepared by other lawyers. 7. What dosage of amphetamines will keep you awake and working the longest. 8. Who you need to be nice to, and on whom you simply should not waste the energy. For example, when you interviewed with The Firm, and during your first few weeks there, you may have thought a certain partner was a mover and shaker. Later, you find out that she is about to be forced out due to low production. 9. Memory techniques for keeping track of all the numbers you need to know. These include your computer access number, a copying machine number, phone and fax numbers, computer access numbers, Lexis Nexis account numbers and a firm credit card number. Most importantly, you’ll be given the number of hours you are expected to bill. 10. Finally, you’ll learn to be patient. That’s because the first-year learning process and procedures I described above will spill over into your second and third years of practice. Remember that television show “First Years” that debuted earlier this year? It chronicled the lives of first-year lawyers. In case you missed it, you now know why viewers didn’t find it interesting and the show was cancelled. The Rodent is a syndicated columnist and author of “Explaining the Inexplicable: The Rodent’s Guide to Lawyers.” His e-mail address is [email protected]

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