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Getting the necessary experience to develop the skills needed to succeed is the most important step in the development of junior associates. In the past, an associate who assisted in preparing a brief would be invited to attend the oral argument. Although an associate would not always take an active role, watching a seasoned partner during an argument was an integral part of her development. It allowed her to not only see the fruits of her labor, but also to experience different styles which could then be used in formulating her own techniques. Unfortunately, one of the most important things to the continued success of a law firm — the hands-on training and development of young associates — is often the first thing to be cut in today’s environment of cost-conscious clients and belt-tightening law firms. Too often, partners no longer offer young associates this kind of experience. But it does not mean these opportunities have vanished. There are still numerous chances for junior associates to gain experience if they are proactive and willing to make some sacrifices. It is amazing how many associates are content to simply do the work assigned them without any thought as to whether they are gaining the experience necessary to rise through the ranks. We know how it is, though. After the brief you have been working on for two weeks straight is finally out the door, the last thing on your mind is how to get more work, let alone work that is new and more challenging. And — don’t cringe — in some cases this added work may not be billable. How can we suggest doing additional non-billable work? Billable hours, after all, are how an attorney is measured in relation to his peers. But think for a minute — don’t forget that an associate’s first goal is to develop as an attorney. In a large-firm culture, work experiences are what sets one associate apart from another. These valuable experiences help achieve career advancement and, in turn, a larger paycheck. Here are a few suggestions on how to get the experience needed to develop into skilled lawyers: ASK AND BE AGGRESSIVE It is surprising how many partners are pleasantly surprised when young associates express an interest in expanding their legal skills. Most will go out of their way to provide valued experience to a junior colleague. They may include an associate in preparing for a hearing or a deposition, and bill the associate’s attendance as a necessary extension of the associate’s work. In cases where a junior associate’s assistance is not required, a partner may simply write-off an associate’s time, understanding that the hands-on experience is important not only to the associate’s personal success, but also to the success of the firm. But associates must be willing to make some sacrifices, too, by offering their services on a non-billable basis if there are projects they really want to help with and the partner is not inclined to write-off the time. We don’t know of any partner who would turn down such an offer. BECOME INDISPENSABLE This is within every young associate’s grasp and will pay dividends in the form of becoming involved in all aspects of litigation or transactions. For example, many junior litigation associates spend much of their time doing document review/production — and just as much time complaining about it. But what many don’t grasp is that they are the only ones who have reviewed the documents and have knowledge of their contents. Associates who can demonstrate this knowledge become indispensable to any team and are often relied on more than associates who blindly review documents. DO PRO BONO If associates can’t gain the necessary experiences from their firms’ billable matters, all is not lost. Pro bono cases are an aspiring associate’s dream. There are pro bono opportunities in every area of law, from litigation to entertainment to trusts and estates. Also, pro bono matters enable associates to take on enormous responsibility with little supervision by allowing them to take leadership roles. ATTEND TRAINING WORKSHOPS Many firms spend thousands of dollars hiring experts to conduct training seminars in all aspects of legal training. Unfortunately, these seminars generally are poorly attended because they take away from billable time during the day or occur in the evening, when most associates would rather be home. Although training seminars don’t offer hands-on experience, many provide one-on-one interaction with skilled lawyers. If your firm does not offer workshops, join a bar association that does. Workshops are usually free or significantly discounted for members. Alison McKinnell King and Daniel Boglioli are associates at Kaye Scholer.

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