Saturday, December 20, 2008


Someone asked for recommendations for how to behave in a review.   I have touched on this in an early post as it related to summer associates in mid or end of summer reviews, but there are some additional pointers for attorneys.

First, do not be a passive participant, just showing up and listening.    At a former firm, we associates could fill out a sort of self-evaluation report, where we could describe significant projects/achievements, as well as professional development activities, pro bono, firm activities (eg., recruiting committee) and community involvement.  Although this was voluntary, and it was time-consuming to do what I perceived to be a thorough job, I forced myself to do it, figuring that the primary evaluator (or any evaluators who received it) probably didn't know everything I had done all year, and this would help them understand the big picture.  Remember, the senior attorneys who complete written evaluations have several to do and it is an arduous task.  They appreciated that I gave them information that they could plug into their evaluations.  And, I felt better knowing that they were more aware of all I was doing.  If you are not aware of such a form at your firm, ask around.  I gave a junior associate a copy of one of my older self-evaluations that she could use as a model.  

If there are particular issues you would like to discuss (say, I am a junior litigator, but I haven't defended a deposition), you may wish to drop the primary evaluator a note with some things you would like to discuss.  Supervising attorneys generally like it when we see someone who is interested in furthering his or her professional development.  

Have a sense of your numbers before you go in (e.g., hours, client origination (if applicable), etc.  This helps if you get your evaluation and there's incorrect numerical information or numerical-based observations.  

If you get a copy of the written evaluation before, review it carefully.  Make notes of any incorrect statements or any items with which you disagree.  You can be prepared to discuss -- calmly.

Bring a notepad and pen, you may wish to take notes.

Listen to the evaluator.  Be appreciative of compliments.  Take in constructive criticism.  If there is something you do not understand, ask calmly for clarification.  Oftentimes the evaluator has collected various comments from other reviewers, and may need to go back to any underlying evaluation form to determine what is meant.  

If you have information to share -- like hours information is incorrect, or you actually did defend a deposition when they said you still needed to do so -- share that with the reviewer.  While you shouldn't be overly defensive or abrasive, this is YOUR career and you shouldn't sit passively like a pillow on a couch.  I often was able to get things added to my evaluation that were overlooked.

Feel free to express appreciation to the evaluator for his or her efforts.  These evals do take up a lot of non-billable time.  

If there are opportunities you would like to get, especially with the evaluator (e.g., work on the xxx case, or a xyz type of matter), go ahead and express that as well.  This is usually a good time to indicate the areas you are interested in, and to show that you are more than an employee -- that you want to develop your career and expand your capabilities and experiences.

No crying.  Doesn't help.

No whining.  Only hurts.

Be professional, be calm.

-- These words of advice assume that you are not getting canned in the evaluation or otherwise "set up."  We can address that situation another time.  


Anonymous said...

this is a useful post. detailed, specific, informative and insightful.

let's have more of these.

TMI said...

Question for your next post - can you address future attorneys who have medical conditions - conditions that don't effect job performance or only require basic accomodation - but may take expensive medications? During the hiring process or after being hired should they try to keep the condition a secret, mention it as it comes up naturally, or disclose it up front?

In the past I have not mentioned mine till it comes up naturally (I need to take a lot of bathroom breaks) but am very open about it when it does come up.

Could this hurt me? Does it make me seem weak to have a chronic condition? Do you even subconsciously worry about the cost to the firm in health insurance etc.?

I am a 3L starting at a mid-sized firm in Sept. Just wondering how quiet I have to be. I have Crohn's disease (so I have to watch out for the TMI/gross factor as well.)

Anonymous said...

Great posts.

I'd love to see a post about different practice groups. I realize it differs firm to firm, but maybe there are generalizations you can make about the lifestyle, hours, culture of differing practice groups. What personalities are suited to different practice groups? Even just a list of why people love certain areas or why they hate them would be great.

I'll be an SA this coming summer, and while I know I can try out different groups, I'd love as much background information as possible.

Also is there any sort of preparation I should be doing for being an SA?

f-3 said...

As an SA this past summer, I found the following two preparations useful on a daily basis:

1) Etiquette classes or articles;

2) Brushing up on research and writing skills (Westlaw, Lexis, and Bluebooking).

You can call up Westlaw / Lexis customer service even during the summer, but it isn't easy finding Bluebooking help on the fly. We all know Bluebook is a pain, but you gotta know it. Bluebooking errors are a quick and easy way to annoy your assigning attorneys.

I wouldn't stress out about studying particular areas of law. Chances are you'll be working in many areas, you won't have time to study all of them. Nobody expects you to know the subject already, but they do expect that you know how to go about finding and constructing a comprehensive and coherent answer.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I'm a 2L now, but in my former job I kept a brag sheet-just a simple word doc of accomplishments/special projects/things I worked on. We had to write our own reviews so it was a great way to remind myself and my bosses of my accomplishments.

Idea for a subsequent post: for 2Ls without SA positions (i.e. me)-- what's the best way to look for small-to-midsized firms who are just now (or in January) determining whether they can hire for summer? Thoughts on sending resumes, reaching out to contacts? Thoughts on what to do if all else fails (externships through school, volunteer, etc.)?

Anonymous said...

f-3 (or anyone else), is there a particular etiquette class/book/series of articles you would recommend?

I feel confident about social etiquette, but brushing up never hurts...

f-3 said...

Anonymous 3:16pm - I personally did not rely on a single guide or a particular series. I tried to read any article on the subject that crossed my path, as concepts of etiquette are changing all the time. I also searched the Web and talked to trusted friends whenever I ran into an unfamiliar situation. You will probably see more such postings on the various legal blogs as the summer approaches.

But here's a very good overview:

If the above link doesn't display correctly, go to (slash) media (slash) youraba (slash) 200704 (slash) article12.html

Of course, this blog can be a safe resource too if you or anyone else runs into a situation that requires input.

Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

As the economy is "supposed to" start picking up in the new year and law firms are "supposed to" start hiring again, what is your advice to folks out there who will be interviewing for practice areas outside their expertise?

For example, I am a recent graduate with absolutely no bankground in bankruptcy law (never even took a class on the subject matter) and I only had a focuse on real estate law. I have been told that as a recent law graduate, firms "can't" expect us to be specialized, but I think that is BS. I had an interview a while back where I was asked about my background in bankruptcy, what classes I took in bankruptcy, etc. The interviewer then proceeded to say that they were only looking for recent law school graduate that can demonstrate expertise in bankrupcty law.

My question is: Am I screwed because my law school focus was in real estate? As a 1L I was told that if I had a practice area I had an interest in, I should specialize my law school classes towards that practice so I can become more competitive for employment. Now that real estate law is dead, I don't know how to convince prospective employers to hire me. My resume is definitely geared for real estate practice: I only worked in the real estate groups at the firms I clerked at, I did a pro bono intership at HUD, my law review article was on real estate law, my references are all in real estate law, and I was an officer of my school's student real estate law group. It's just depressing that I seemed to have pigeon-holed myself before I even graduated from law school.