Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Tips for New Associates in the New Normal


Being a brand-new law firm associate in the Age of COVID is different in some ways than it was just a few years ago.

For example, working remotely might be a necessity, and water cooler conversations may occur virtually rather than face-to-face. 

But in most respects, the same principles apply, starting with being a member of a larger whole. 

“You work as part of a team,” write Virginia lawyers Dustin Paul and Jennifer Eaton. “Never forget that. Your mistakes impact a partner, and a partner’s mistakes impact you. In the end, if something goes wrong, you will likely bear at least some responsibility. Take the initiative to send reminder emails and offer your assistance to colleagues. Saying, ‘I thought you were handing that’—even when a partner told you they would handle it—will rarely absolve you of responsibility.” 

Another similarity: the experience can be terrifying.

“Little has prepared you for this confusing and stressful first year,” write Paul and Eaton for the ABA Journal. “Even many summer associate positions fail to provide a realistic picture of what it is like to be an associate—or worse, they intentionally paint a false picture.”

Click here to read “11 Survival Tips for First-Year Associates” in the ABA Journal.

Lawyers Mutual can help you navigate the new normal. Our email newsletter “Practice Reimagined” offers timely tips, pointers and valuable links on wellness, work-life balance and quality of life – delivered straight to your in-box. Lawyers helping lawyers. It’s what we’ve been doing more than 40 years.


11 Survival Tips for First-Year Associates

Here are the pointers from the ABA Journal article. Read the whole thing to learn more.

  1. Build trust and stay busy.
  2. Don’t just identify problems; solve them.
  3. Don’t get in your own way.
  4. Responsibility is joint and several.
  5. Manage difficult situations.
  6. Find a mentor.
  7. Build your professional network.
  8. Set goals.
  9. Find daily stress relief.
  10. Know your why.
  11. This, too, shall pass.


NC Rule of Professional Conduct 5.2: Responsibilities of a Subordinate Lawyer

(a) A lawyer is bound by the Rules of Professional Conduct notwithstanding that the lawyer acted at the direction of another person. 

(b) A subordinate lawyer does not violate the Rules of Professional Conduct if that lawyer acts in accordance with a supervisory lawyer's reasonable resolution of an arguable question of professional duty.

Comment [1] Although a lawyer is not relieved of responsibility for a violation by the fact that the lawyer acted at the direction of a supervisor, that fact may be relevant in determining whether a lawyer had the knowledge required to render conduct a violation of the Rules. For example, if a subordinate filed a frivolous pleading at the direction of a supervisor, the subordinate would not be guilty of a professional violation unless the subordinate knew of the document's frivolous character.

Comment [2] When lawyers in a supervisor-subordinate relationship encounter a matter involving professional judgment as to ethical duty, the supervisor may assume responsibility for making the judgment. Otherwise a consistent course of action or position could not be taken. If the question can reasonably be answered only one way, the duty of both lawyers is clear and they are equally responsible for fulfilling it. However, if the question is reasonably arguable, someone has to decide upon the course of action. That authority ordinarily reposes in the supervisor, and a subordinate may be guided accordingly. For example, if a question arises whether the interests of two clients conflict under Rule 1.7, the supervisor's reasonable resolution of the question should protect the subordinate professionally if the resolution is subsequently challenged.


Source: ABA Journal


Have you checked out Lawyers Mutual Consulting & Services? Founded by Camille Stell, who also serves as president, LMCS is a subsidiary of Lawyers Mutual. Its mission is to help firms build a modern law practice. It does that by offering expert advice and assistance into law firm trends and best practices. Camille and LMCS helps lawyers and firms create strategic plans and succession plans. A popular speaker and writer, Camille loves to guide lawyers through succession planning and into Life after Law. Contact her today.


About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

Read More by Jay >

Related Posts