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There’s more to professional success than earning a law degree and being a summer associate. The dos and don’ts of how you project yourself to others play a vital role. Following are some etiquette guidelines to live by. ‘ON TIME’ MEANS ‘LATE’ When you are early, you are on time. When you are on time, you are late. When you are late, you lose! Billable hours were created for one reason: Time is money. As a summer associate, recognize that it is always better to arrive at meetings a few minutes earlier than the scheduled time. This shows you have time-management skills. Summer associates who slide into meetings at the appointed time, rather than a few minutes early, also forgo the chance to network by talking with early arrivals. A savvy summer associate also knows that it is better to be kept waiting, than to be the one who makes others wait. SLANG-FREE VOCABULARY Consider the words “yeah,” “but” and “think”: Are any of these words part of your vocabulary? If you are a “yeah”-sayer, delete this sloppy term from your vocabulary once and for all. Replace it with “yes.” When you hear yourself saying, “yeah,” simply repeat what you have said by saying “yes.” (For example, “Will you be attending the client reception?” “Yeah-yes, I will.”) After about 21 occasions of reinforcing “yeah” with “yes” you will have created a new habit. Recently, I was working with a group of first-year associates on etiquette skills. I asked them why the term “but” should be deleted from their vocabulary. One young man said, “People who use the term ‘but’ usually have an excuse following it.” He certainly was right about that. Instead of the word “but,” substitute “however,” a more transitional term. A few years ago, I was working with individuals at a corporate workshop. I thought the workshop had gone quite well. As the regional manager and I were walking to the parking lot, I asked him how he thought the workshop had gone. I will never forget his reply: “Do you really want to know?” At that point, I wasn’t really sure I did. However, I said, “Yes, I do.” He told me, “Ann Marie, we didn’t hire you to tell us what you ‘think.’ We hired you to tell us what you ‘suggest’ and what you ‘recommend.’ Get the word, ‘think’ out of your vocabulary. It’s such a weak word.” I certainly saw his perspective. The term “think” can be perceived as ambiguous and wishy-washy; it’s a word without backbone. If you have bad verbal habits, clean up your act. Unnecessary terms such as “you know” and “uh-huh” should be deleted from your vocabulary once and for all. An easy way to eliminate these annoying terms is by preparing what you are going to say; this will cut down on stammering and the tendency to fill in gaps in one’s thoughts with slang words. Other words that do not belong in a law firm setting include “go figure,” “whatever,” and “like” (e.g., “Do you have a few minutes to, like, meet with me?”) GREETINGS AND CONNECTORS Are you in the habit of jumping into a conversation with “What’s on your mind?” Or do you make a point of first acknowledging others with “Good morning. How was your client dinner last evening?” While it may take a few more minutes on the front end, opening a conversation with a greeting and connector is the appropriate way to acknowledge a person before discussing the matter at hand. Note that using a “connector” means asking a question about a topic mentioned by the person the last time you spoke. It establishes a rapport and also closes the gap between the last time you spoke and your current conversation. AVOID INTERRUPTIONS One mouth, two ears. If it is not already part of your professional style, the “two-second pause” (i.e., count to two after someone finishes talking) will come in handy when listening to individuals within the firm or to clients. It also will assist you in establishing the reputation of being an effective listener — rather than an “interrupter.” By using this tip, you also will demonstrate your listening expectations of others when you are talking. EATING VS. DINING Your dining demeanor during power breakfasts, business luncheons and client dinners should be much different than when you are at home eating and the blinds are closed. The purposes of business meals are to interact with others in a more relaxed setting and to eat — in that order. Many summer associates are stunned to find that there are three ways for both holding and using a fork and knife: the American style, the Continental (also known as European style) and “no” style. Which way do you use utensils? If you are uncertain, consult an etiquette book or a Web site on etiquette. Also, recognize that just because the firm is paying for a meal, it does not mean “order anything.” The way to know what to order is by asking the host, “What do you recommend?” TAKE OFF THE FEEDBACK A large reception is more than a feeding trough. Your summer associate experience may include business receptions with upper-level associates and partners. Recognize that you are “on” at these unstructured gatherings. Wear your nametag on your right side so that others can glance down at your name as you shake hands. Approach people and introduce yourself; don’t form a summer-associate huddle. Treat the appetizers as a snack, not a mini-dinner, and remember that alcohol should not act as truth serum. GIVE THANKS Send a thank-you note to anyone who spends more than 15 minutes helping you. A note written on high-quality stationery is appropriate following face-to-face interactions such as a lunch. An e-mail thank-you works just fine when extending your thanks to another summer associate and/or following a telephone call. Besides displaying your gratitude, this gesture will demonstrate that you pay attention to detail. You also will be seen as a person your law firm will want as a part of its team in the coming years. Ann Marie Sabath is the founder of At Ease Inc., a 17-year-old corporate-etiquette training firm. Sabath is the author of, most recently, “Business Etiquette: 101 Ways to Conduct Business With Charm and Savvy.” She welcomes etiquette questions via e-mail.

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