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Tips for Maximizing Your Time in Big Law

1. Select a practice wisely. Particularly if you are anticipating transitioning out of law firm practice, make as informed a decision as possible about the type of practice that will most likely enable you to transition successfully into the work you wish to do down the road.

2. Excel at the basics. Whether you remain at your firm for the long term, or transition to a new position at some point, it will serve you well to excel at your job. Provide excellent work product and work ethic, meet all deadlines, respond promptly, seek and accept feedback, be eager to pitch in to get the work done, and demonstrate respect for everyone with whom you work. Learn the criteria for making partner within your firm - by knowing what the firm expects, you will be able to demonstrate the qualities needed to succeed.

3. Cultivate mentors/sponsors. Go beyond formal mentor programs to cultivate relationships with senior attorneys with interests similar to yours and with the ability to assist you in advancing your career. Maintain mentor relationships you've developed in other settings including law school and prior work experiences.

4. Be visible. Avoid the temptation to communicate only through technology. Meet in person with attorneys and clients as often as possible. Attend firm events.

5. Engage within the firm outside of your paid client work. Take on pro bono matters, assist with client pitches, author practice group newsletter articles, mentor junior attorneys, and join committees. Taking on these responsibilities will advance your reputation as a team player, will further your personal relationships and enhance your likeability within the firm. Pro bono takes on even greater value if you are contemplating a move to the public sector.

6. Engage outside of the firm. Get involved with community organizations, bar associations, and your school's alumni associations. You never know when a connection you make will turn into a client, employer, mentor or colleague.

7. Avoid the golden handcuffs. Most attorneys who transition out of Big Law accept positions in which they earn less (and sometimes significantly less) than their law firm salaries. If you are contemplating a transition out of Big Law, keep in mind the salary range for positions you hope to obain down the road and manage your money accordingly.

8. Assess exit opportunities (but do it subtly). If you are considering other options beyond Big Law, keep your eyes and ears open to the exit options explored and taken by fellow attorneys at the firm. Learn about career paths of firm alumni. Take calls from headhunters to hear about opportunities they are promoting.

-Updated August 2014