What I have found over the years is that younger lawyers do not take OWNERSHIP of a matter. I don't know whether they assume the partner/senior attorney will eventually oversee and fix everything, or they have been happy collecting 160,000 starting salaries in some places and feel they can clock in and clock out as long as they bill the hours, etc., but I notice a definitely loss of ownership of matters.
What this means is that when there is a project: a brief, a corporate agreement, etc., you assume responsibility from beginning to end. And even at the end, you may further assume responsibility to remind clients/other attorneys of upcoming deadlines, or if you see a development in the trade press, etc., to bring it to someone's attention. This subject is a bit hard to articulate, so let me try to elaborate.
When I was brought into a project, I assumed that I was there from start to finish. I assumed that I was a critical team member. Let's say it was legal research, and drafting a memorandum. I would obviously, promptly conduct the research. If the research indicated there were new developments (such as pending legislation or court cases), I would track those down, not just tell someone they were out there. I would work with Lexis staff, our librarian, etc. to find the information. I would draft the memorandum. I would deliver it promptly. If there was follow-up, I would take care of that promptly as well. Sounds easy, right?
Well, let's say that another project comes up in the middle of first project. Unless partner two has spoken to partner one about interfering with first project, it is still my job to finish project one. Even if I have to stay late, work weekends, etc. And of course, I have to keep moving on project two. This may mean I have so cancel some social or other engagements.
Let's say I am supposed to head out of town to visit family. Do I just tell these people I am heading out and dump my half-completed research? NOOOOOO. This will make you stand out in a bad way. Either complete the work before you go (don't tell me there's no time, I've completed many assignments in the middle of the night from my home computer), or take the work and a laptop and get it done in a timely fashion while you are gone. Everyone has outside commitments. This doesn't mean you can leave unfinished work. Take ownership of any project just like it is your solo project -- show that you are dedicated and that you take your work seriously, and that people can always depend on you.
Once I have sent out my memo, do I just go into oblivion? NOOOOOO. Especially if you are out of the office, make sure the other attorneys have everything they would need: your memo, copies of your cases, legislation, etc., and of course, all your contact information. Tell them you are available for any questions (they probably won't call but this makes you look responsible and interested). Check your messages and return calls and emails if they do have questions. If there was some unfinished business, like you need to speak with some third party, take their contact information, follow up, and report back. People will notice that you handled this responsibly.
One of the things I hear from attorneys is that the younger attorneys don't seem to "care" about matters. After your particular task is done, don't just check out and move on. This isn't McDonald's where you just ring up the special combo no. 1 and move on to the next drive through customer. Check in with the assigning attorney to see if they need anything else/ask how the matter is going (maybe they will even take you along to some of the follow-up, because you seem interested and invested!). This demonstrates that you are a "team" member, and remember, your goal is to stay on the team.
Happy Friday, everyone.