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Resource Review: Lawyer’s Survival Guide to Working at a Law Firm

In The Young Lawyer’s Jungle Book: A Survival Guide, Thane Messinger provides law students and young attorneys with advice for taking a first job at a law firm. A copy of this book is available in the Career Development Office.

The first few chapters introduce the atmosphere of law firms generally. The author offers advice for how to orient oneself, maintain a healthy work-life balance, and deal with fears and pressures commonly experienced by first-year associates. There is also a section written specifically for students still in school, recommending potentially useful extracurricular activities and classes.

The next few chapters explore more specifically the type of work typically assigned to new associates—such as researching and memo writing—and suggests techniques for completing the work efficiently. There are also subsections detailing common grammatical mistakes (and how to avoid them), the use of math, and tracking billable hours. Additionally, the author discusses how to receive feedback from senior partners and how to use criticism to improve work on future assignments.

The final grouping of chapters delves into the social and professional aspects of working in a law firm. Basics, such as how to communicate with other attorneys and dress professionally, are covered first. The author then discusses how to communicate effectively with clients and maintain solid working relationships with secretaries and other non-attorney staff members. The final chapters deal with working in a firm after the first year and potentially seeking new employment (voluntarily or involuntarily).

In sum, this resource would be helpful for anyone—especially students—considering employment with a law firm. Those wanting a perspective or advice about working with governmental, corporate in-house, or other employers should look elsewhere. The author’s humorous writing style makes for easy reading, and the bite-sized sections within each chapter, which are clearly separated with descriptive headings, help guide readers to the parts in which they are most interested.

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