One of the things that really drew me to my first, Biglaw law firm was the setup of its impressive conference rooms. The firm lives high in the sky, 30+ stories up and occupying several floors of one of New York’s tallest skyscrapers. Almost every floor has a conference room on both the north and south side, and each conference room is bordered by walls of glass that allow you to look all the way from the elevator banks in the center of the building, through the hallway, and through the conference room, to either Central Park or the Financial District. The tables gleam and the chairs look perfectly designed for rich people’s bad posture.
Flash forward to a few months after starting my job there, when I had actually spent some time inside those beautiful glass boxes, sitting through endless internal meetings and endless conference calls with clients. I learned that the glass walls on the hallway side make each conference room a fishbowl, allowing your colleagues to peer in at you and send you sympathetic glances (depending on the room’s contents, in particular the other people in attendance). The glass on the other side gave me glimpses of what was happening in the outside world, as I watched the seasons pass in the trees in Central Park, without really experiencing them myself.
My first experiences attending meetings in those rooms were intimidating and confusing. As a junior associate in a meeting, you’re expected to be everything and nothing. You need to be prepared for any question that may come your way, but you might be silent for the entire duration. Here are some survival tips for your first meetings as a junior (I’m a corporate lawyer, but I’ve asked a litigator for some input so that this won’t be so one-sided).
Paul Hastings is excited to bring you a Q&A session with K Whitner, chair of the Firm’s Global Diversity Committee, conducted by Rhonda Mims, Managing Director of Corporate Social Responsibilities.
Rhonda Mims and K Whitner
RM: Thanks for chatting with me today, K! We are looking forward to learning about your career in law, path to partnership and what drove you to get involved with various committee roles.
Willkie is committed to transparency and associate development. The firm strives to equip all Willkie associates with the right tools to develop their skills and practices and to achieve professional success—either by progressing through the ranks to partnership, or by harnessing the firm’s resources to transition to a different employer, role or industry.
You did it! You’re a lawyer, and you’ve got a job! Whether you have your own office or a cube, you hopefully have at least one drawer for your personal belongings. Assuming that your place of employment has been kind enough to supply you with office supplies (not necessarily a given, but most legal jobs are at least good for some pens and paper), here are a few suggestions of items to fill that special drawer and make your life slightly more tolerable:
• Advil (or other painkiller of your choice). Useful for: hangovers, caffeine headaches, and that strange throbbing in your brain that comes as a consequence of not sleeping for two straight days.
• Kleenex. There will be tears. Have something to catch them with.
• Phone charger. Sometimes your phone is the only thing really connecting you with people on the outside, especially if your office has gone the newly prevalent route of cutting off access to Gmail and Gchat from your work computer. You don’t want it to die on you, and your meager social life with it.
• Hand sanitizer. Shared spaces are disgusting and you need to keep those hands clean. Especially considering how often you will likely be facepalming.
• Lysol wipes. Similarly, you might want to wipe your desk down from time to time, especially if you eat at it, and you will eat at your desk. If you don’t believe me, try shaking your keyboard upside down some time. You’ll find food particles from sandwiches you had long forgotten.
• Pepto bismol/Tums. You’ll think about ordering a salad, but when you’re ordering dinner at 9:30 and your night at the office is just beginning, you’ll probably order a Styrofoam box full of heartburn instead.
• Deodorant. Both in case you forget, and because you may from time to time be held prisoner at your desk for days on end.
• Foot deodorizer. Feet can get super stinky, especially in the summer (and especially if you don’t wear socks with your shoes, because you are a woman or a man with no regard for the nostrils of others).
• Lip balm or chapstick. Office environments are often dry as a bone, especially during the winter when the heat is running all the time - and chapped lips never look professional. Nor does the “freshly bitten” look.
• Safety pins. Wardrobe malfunctions can and do happen!
The journey to becoming an attorney is a windy road filled with late-night study sessions, high-pressure exams, and tough competition—all of which can contribute to mental health challenges. With an estimated 40% of law students experiencing depression by graduation, it is important to understand that you are not alone if you are suffering from depression.