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A new autumn always stirs memories … of first days of school, shopping for supplies and new clothes with my parents (and, years later, with my own kids), the crispness of the air, the smell of burning leaves, the beauty of trees as they change colors, the promise of a new football season, the excitement of baseball playoffs and, more recently, NFL fantasy drafts. At law firms, fall always signals the arrival of new classes of associates who have wrapped up clerkships, fellowships and summer associateships; passed the bar exam; taken “last vacations” and are reporting for their first “real jobs.” I’ll never forget my first day at Kirkland & Ellis on Oct. 1, 1986, in Chicago in what was then still called the Amoco Building … my excitement, my nerves and meeting my future wife (a true story).

My orientation focused almost entirely on administrative matters. I didn’t ask many questions about being a lawyer. Like most associates, I just dived in on the theory that I would eventually be able to figure it out. This tradition hasn’t changed, from what I can tell, which hindsight has taught me is crazy. So, here are a few pieces of advice, based on 20 years as a trial lawyer and 13 years as an in-house lawyer, that I wish I had received when I reported for duty:

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