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Law Firm Associates Have Never Had a First Year Like the Last. Here's What Some Learned.

The American Lawyer

The water cooler, coffee machine and elevator have acquired near mythic status for those young attorneys who started Big Law careers in the COVID-era and have barely, if ever, stepped foot inside their firms’ offices.

Instead of chance encounters, they’ve experienced first years, conducted entirely virtually, that have been distinguished by intentionality. Relationship building, for better or worse, has taken place via screens.


But professionals who oversee training efforts in firms also anticipate that some of the techniques and strategies they’ve been forced to embrace in the last year will become part of their toolbox for future years, even when the exigencies imposed by COVID-19 have faded into the past.

“I definitely see virtual training being a piece of what we intend to do going forward,” said Josh Troy, director of attorney professional development at Blank Rome. 


First-year associates found themselves spending their much of first weeks at the firm on video calls, being exposed to technology, databases and other key resources.


“Practice group leaders did a fantastic job at really encouraging all of the partners and associates to utilize Teams and use [their] camera and reach out to new associates and get that face time,” said Emily Osofsky, a Blank Rome first-year associate in New York. “Even though I met a lot of them in person when I was a summer associate, it was a different experience being just in that one practice group and meeting people I might not have worked with when I was a summer.”

According to Troy, Blank Rome consciously aimed to expand its mentorship program by assigning each new associate both a partner and a senior-associate mentor and by asking these individuals to bring an additional lawyer to each virtual meeting, with the goal of ultimately connecting new arrivals to 10 experienced attorneys.

Lessons to Share

Taking the initiative has always been a key for associates aiming for long-term success at their firms. It’s only become more essential in this current remote environment.


“The main obstacle that I’ve experienced is, because my office is in my house, it’s hard to know when the lights turn off. In the office, as people trickle out, go home and leave their offices, you get the sense that the day is over, I’m not going to get any more emails and I’ll just push everything to the side,” Osofsky said. “Working from home, if an email comes to me at 10 p.m., the expectation is not that I have to answer it. But I’m like, ‘Eh, I could,’ and I do, and it ends up snowballing.”

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“Law Firm Associates Have Never Had a First Year Like the Last. Here's What Some Learned,” by Dan Packel was published in The American Lawyer on September 27, 2021.