The Benefits of Exploring a Variety of Practice Areas as a Summer and Junior Associate

Published: Dec 14, 2021

 Education       Grad School       Law       

Mina Whangbo is an associate in Linklaters’ Investment Funds group. Her practice focuses on the representation of fund sponsors and institutional investors regarding the formation, negotiation, and governance of private investment funds across diverse strategies.

Anna Gooding is an associate in Linklaters’ Antitrust & Foreign Investment group. Her practice focuses on advising clients on U.S. merger control, as well as complex antitrust litigation and antitrust compliance issues.

The Benefits of Exploring a Variety of Practice Areas as a Summer and Junior Associate

Anna Gooding, Antitrust & Foreign Investment Associate

Mina Whangbo, Investment Funds Associate 

What tips do you have for maximizing the value of time spent in a pool/open assignment system?

  • Cast a wide net—try out as many practice areas as you can.
  • Be open to new experiences and practice areas, even if there are groups you’ve never heard of or aren’t sure you’ll like. You never know what you’ll end up liking until you try it.
  • Take advantage of being new at the firm by reaching out to attorneys in different practice areas for coffee chats. This is a great way to begin building your network, in addition to learning more about what’s going on at the firm and in different practice groups.
  • Having an open mind and a can-do attitude goes a long way!

What are the benefits of starting in a pool/open assignment system, rather than specializing right away?

  • There’s no substitute for working with a variety practice groups directly; it is the best way to learn about what it’s really like to be part of each group.
  • Working with different practice groups provides foundational knowledge about each group: its matters and clients, skills required for success, and the people and culture.
  • Exploring different practice areas helps to make you a more well-rounded lawyer no matter which group you join. It contributes to your overall understanding of legal practice, how different groups interact with each other on matters, when to bring in other groups for advice, and allows you to start building your network at the firm.
  • Working with multiple practice groups will help you to narrow down your preferences in an informed way, so you can identify the groups you think are the best fit.

What advice do you have for networking and building connections with attorneys while in the pool/open assignment system?

  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to attorneys for coffee chats. You’ll be surprised how receptive they are and how much they love to talk about their practice areas and their professional path.
  • Attending group meetings is one of the best ways to meet the lawyers in that group and to learn more about what the group is doing. Seeing how the attorneys interact during meetings also helps to get a better sense of the group’s culture.
  • Once you establish a connection with attorneys, keep it going—ask them if they need help with an assignment, if there’s an opportunity to shadow them during a client meeting, etc.

What are some best practices that can help someone stand out (in a good way!) while in the pool/open assignment system?

  • Aim to turn in high quality work—everyone understands you are new and are learning as you go, but do the best job you can. Ensure you understand the assignment thoroughly, ask follow-up questions, be detail-oriented, read (and re-read) your work for typos, stay organized, and turn in assignments on time.
  • Your job as a summer and junior associate is to make the more senior attorney’s life easier, so always keep that front of mind as you complete assignments and assist on various matters. If you think you won’t be able to meet a deadline, let the assigning attorney know well in advance so they aren’t forced to edit your work at the last minute to meet the overall deadline.
  • Strive for continuous improvement—learn from the feedback you receive and apply it to subsequent assignments going forward.
  • Be a team player—offer to help when you have time. Be proactive; take ownership and responsibility. Once you’ve completed an assignment, follow up to ask if you can help with next steps.
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew—try not to overwhelm yourself by taking on more than you can handle. Enthusiasm and willingness to take on more is always appreciated, but not at the expense of quality of work and ability to meet deadlines. Make sure you’re able to give each assignment the time and attention it requires.
  • Communication is key—it can be challenging to work with a variety of groups, because the associates you’re working with aren’t aware of all the assignments you’re working on. Keep your assignors in the loop about what you’re working on, what your priorities are (or what you think they are), and be honest about your capacity.
  • If you’re not sure how to prioritize, talk to the assigning attorneys about upcoming deadlines. They can help you prioritize and potentially even reallocate the work.
  • Manage your time wisely—but that’s a skill that takes time to hone and can be easier said than done at times!

How does the ability to explore different practice areas early on help summer and junior associates’ development?

  • Having basic knowledge of different practice areas through practical experience comes in handy once you’re ultimately assigned to a practice group.
  • Learning how to juggle a variety of different matters at the same time is a really important skill for an associate to have, along with learning how to effectively keep track of many different workstreams.
  • Meeting, working with, and developing relationships with attorneys in different practice areas means you know who to reach out to if you need advice from other groups for matters you are working on.
  • Internal networking at the firm is an important part of your career trajectory, and the pool/open assignment system provides a platform for that to happen from the very start of your career.

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