QHi! I work in a medium law firm in Manhattan and am a first-year in corporate law. We closed a big deal about three weeks ago. I am in charge of the boring, tedious, post-closing grunt work. I’m the most junior attorney so that is my lot in life. I honestly don’t mind it. I’m just happy to be a part of the team. My concern is that the post-closing work at this point only consumes an hour or so of my day. No other attorney has given me any other assignments.
I’ve specifically stated to the second-year and the senior associate who worked on the last deal that I have a very light work load and I would be happy to work wherever I am needed. They both said that if they had something, they would give to me. I’ve heard through the rumor mill of new deals starting up, but no one has officially asked me to do anything. I really have nothing to do and am bored out of my mind and worried about my job security. I feel like I’m being neglected and am slipping through the cracks.
How do I ask for work in a meaningful, polite way? Who do I ask? I’m afraid to go to my practice group leader before I talk to the partners in my office, but the partners in my office should know that I need work and have nothing to do. Plus it is difficult to strike up a conversation with them when I see them in the hallways.
AOkay, here’s the deal. They don’t tell you this in law school, but part of your job as an associate is to market yourself within your firm. It’s your job to meet the people that matter and to make them want to work with you. Specifically, that means you need to network with senior associates and junior partners. How do you do that? That’s up to you. Some people are naturals, others aren’t. But if you passed the bar, you can certainly figure out how to ask someone if they need help. Or better yet, just stop by their office and say, “Hey, I was just wondering if you need any help on anything?” If they say no, it’s either because they didn’t have any work to give or they’d prefer not to work with you. I have no idea what your reputation is, but if it’s good, and people like working with you, it’s purely a function of the firm’s workload.
You also need to remember that we’re in a recession. Transactional work has slowed down significantly across the country. So my guess is, the real reason you’re not getting any work is . . . there isn’t any. Hang tough and continue to ask the right people. In the meantime, write an article relating to your practice area, attend a relevant (local) seminar, or catch up on your CLE credits. In two months, when you’re stuck in a windowless conference room all weekend, you’ll hate yourself for wasting all that free time.