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izzy2018

First Year Associate Blues - Normal?

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I am a first year associate at a very small firm (myself, two senior associates and two partners) in Ottawa that specializes in Family Law and Wills and Estates. I started about 2 months ago. I am struggling to feel somewhat self-sufficient at work, and I am not sure what is expected of me at this level. Most assignments I get come with very vague instructions and comments like "give this a try" but in reality, as a first year with no previous experience, I often do not know where to start. The senior associates aren't overly helpful either, as they are busy with their own practices and are not always responsive. My experience in articling was to ask most of my "how do I do this?" questions to junior associates, but I do not have that option here. Can anyone share their first year associate experience? Is this a normal feeling/situation? I am not exactly "happy" at this point because I feel like on one hand, I need to show that I am independent and a self-starter, but on the other, I am working with real clients and need to know what I am doing before I do it. I do not want my trial run to take place on a file where my mistakes could have a long-term effect on the clients. I also do not want to bug the partners that I work for 3 times a day with all of my questions. Also, everything I do takes me a very long time because I am constantly guessing, going to an associate or partner to obtain their approval (which, at times, takes a day or two), etc. It is just a very slow, tedious process.

Any suggestions on how to get through this difficult phase would be great. My goal is to stay positive and find some realistic solutions so that I can grow with the firm over time!

 

Edited by izzy2018

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1 hour ago, izzy2018 said:

I am a first year associate at a very small firm (myself, two senior associates and two partners) in Ottawa that specializes in Family Law and Wills and Estates. I started about 2 months ago. I am struggling to feel somewhat self-sufficient at work, and I am not sure what is expected of me at this level. Most assignments I get come with very vague instructions and comments like "give this a try" but in reality, as a first year with no previous experience, I often do not know where to start. The senior associates aren't overly helpful either, as they are busy with their own practices and are not always responsive. My experience in articling was to ask most of my "how do I do this?" questions to junior associates, but I do not have that option here. Can anyone share their first year associate experience? Is this a normal feeling/situation? I am not exactly "happy" at this point because I feel like on one hand, I need to show that I am independent and a self-starter, but on the other, I am working with real clients and need to know what I am doing before I do it. I do not want my trial run to take place on a file where my mistakes could have a long-term effect on the clients. I also do not want to bug the partners that I work for 3 times a day with all of my questions. Also, everything I do takes me a very long time because I am constantly guessing, going to an associate or partner to obtain their approval (which, at times, takes a day or two), etc. It is just a very slow, tedious process.

Any suggestions on how to get through this difficult phase would be great. My goal is to stay positive and find some realistic solutions so that I can grow with the firm over time!

 

I was in a somewhat similar situation when I started, in that I was the first hire for the firm in a long time and so there was a huge gap in experience between me and the next closest lawyer. Working in a small firm with busy lawyers, you have to get used to the idea of working independently and having way more responsibility compared to some of your colleagues at a big firm. The reality is that there aren't several tiers of junior associates, senior associates, and partners separating you from the client or going over your work as it meanders its way up the chain. You need to be comfortable with that idea and confident enough to take a shot at whatever drops on your desk. You will have firm precedents for guidance, but that's as good as its going to get most of the time. Sure, mistakes will be made, but you will learn quickly from your mistakes and (if you are diligent about it) never make them again. 

 

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