Is it normal to work this much as an SA?

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Is it normal to work this much as an SA?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jun 10, 2019 8:33 pm

During orientation, legal recruitment told us we should strive to get in by 9 and leave by 5:30 or 6 every day. They said when we are "real" associates we will definitely not maintain those hours, but for the summer, our goal should be to do "some" work but really focus on relationship building and social events.

Well, this could not be farther from the reality of my SA experience so far. I've been leaving the office by about 7:30 most nights and working from home until 9/10PM. One night, I did not leave the office until 11PM. The partner had scheduled a meeting with me and two senior associates at 7:00 and I had to get some work done on it right after that meeting. I have worked consistently on the weekends, and the other day a first year associate mentioned her billable hours for the week and mine were above his (not trying to brag as this genuinely freaked me out).... Most the partners/attorneys giving me work have been like "take as much time as you need, just have fun this summer." But this one partner in particular just gives me assignment after assignment and asks for a very quick turnaround on work that I haven't been exposed to before. It's odd to me, because everyone keeps saying how shitty SA work is, which is partly why our hours are supposed to be lower than normal.

All the other SAs I talk to are not experiencing this. Am I just too dumb and not able to keep up with the work? Is legal recruiting going to start giving me a hard time about not being as social as the others because I'm so swamped with work all the time? I really don't know what's normal and what to do here...

Also, am I going to run into trouble in regards to time keeping? I've actually been under-selling how long I've been taking on assignments, billing like 8-9 hours each day instead of the 11-14 it is actually taking me. But still, the associate told me they billed 4 hours that day, which seemed so low to me.

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Re: Is it normal to work this much as an SA?

Postby SamuelDanforth » Mon Jun 10, 2019 8:49 pm

What kind of firm / what city are you in for your SA? This kind of thing certainly happens to people at firms with "working summers," e.g. Cravath, WLRK, MTO, SG, BSF, etc. Not everyone at those firms will have those experiences, but some will. If you tell us more about the firm, we can perhaps give you better advice about whether you should be talking to your work coordinator about this. Basically, you don't want to be put in a position where you produce crappy work, and sometimes partners ignore the workflow arrangements that firms try to provide summers to make sure they aren't being swamped.

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Re: Is it normal to work this much as an SA?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jun 10, 2019 8:59 pm

It is a V50 firm in a satellite office. I noticed their summer class size is double what it was last year, so they may be growing a lot. Also not sure if it is relevant but I am litigation track, and my business law friends seem to be the ones getting much more laid back assignments.

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Re: Is it normal to work this much as an SA?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jun 10, 2019 9:07 pm

Kirkland Houston? If so, PM me.

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Re: Is it normal to work this much as an SA?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jun 10, 2019 9:42 pm

Not normal, but also not unheard of. I've had friends at Cravath that have done similar hours as a summer (granted it was not for the entire summer, maybe just a few weeks).

My advice would be to stick it out and let recruiting know that you're slammed with work and having a hard time making it to events. Would also try to take on less in the upcoming weeks.

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Re: Is it normal to work this much as an SA?

Postby impactplayer » Mon Jun 10, 2019 9:53 pm

Not normal. You need to talk to talent/recruiting department at your firm and get them to intervene.

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Re: Is it normal to work this much as an SA?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:57 pm

In response to the above anon, no it is not Kirkland. Sorry to be so weirdly secretive, I just don't want to be too specific or it may be obvious who I am.

The one thing I worry about if it's not normal is maybe I'm just not getting it? The assignments taking me really long have been long formal memos with lengthy research on various in-depth issues and editing/adding citations to briefs and other docs here and there. But I mainly use the weekends and evenings to get the "easier" assignments out of the way so I have time to focus on the lengthy ones with quick turnaround times during the normal work hours. I will definitely talk to recruiting if this persists, but I just worry about seeming incompetent if I'm unable to handle the workload I'm being given.

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Re: Is it normal to work this much as an SA?

Postby RedGiant » Tue Jun 11, 2019 12:28 am

No one here can tell you what's normal at your firm if you stay anon.

But please consider a few things:

This is your chance to get to know partners who will (a) approve you getting an offer; (b) staff you when you are a FT hire and (c) expose you to diverse areas of the law. If you work for only one partner over and over, you are not using your summer to its full advantage. You are falling into the fallacy that the hardest worker gets rewarded. That is not always the case at all, especially in biglaw where partners are making best friends with their new lil proteges. You may be becoming one partner's protege, but maybe that's not the partner you want to emulate. Don't fall into that trap!

Further, if this partner is treating you this way now, imagine how it's going to be when you're a first year? If he knows he can dump untold amounts of work on you and you never, ever utter a peep about your other deadlines? Do you actually want to be this guy's new dumpee? NO! You're not doing this right! Some firms have a culture of not saying a hard outright no, but all firms have a culture where saying, "Thank you, partner--I am tied up until X date working on a few other assignments, and while I really appreciate you looping me in, I want to make sure I get everything done that I already committed to." If partner is a smooth operator and says, "This is just a small assigment/it won't take long" you need to say, "Great! Let me check with our summer staffer about timing and I'll get back to you."

Listen to me--YOU COULD LOSE YOUR OFFER if you don't manage your time well. Let that sink in. Your desire to do it all could be your downfall.

You need to reset. FIrst, talk to your summer associate mentor or another associate in your practice area to get recs on what to do next. Second, start logging your time for real. Third, speak with your summer coordinator and let him or her know that you are really exicted to be getting so many ad-hoc assignments, but you also want to ensure you're meeting enough people across the firm and have enough time to attend events. If you cut your hours, they don't know how hard you're working! So stop writing down your hours. Ask if there's a polite way to push back or take on a few less things.

Your reputation, even as a summer, matters. Make your work product impeccable. Follow the lead of your mentor. Stop believing that doing all the things leads to success. It doesn't. Reset your outlook here.

Sorry for the tough love.

And, finally--I did two all nighters as a summer. My classmates (from school, not the same firm) were incredulous. Deals were closing, it was normal for my practice area. If a smaller office needs help and you're competent, they're going to use you. But don't let them use you to your detriment. You got this. Sally forth and make some changes. It's OK to say soft no. Get advice on how it's done at your firm.

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Re: Is it normal to work this much as an SA?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 11, 2019 12:47 am

RedGiant wrote:Further, if this partner is treating you this way now, imagine how it's going to be when you're a first year? If he knows he can dump untold amounts of work on you and you never, ever utter a peep about your other deadlines? Do you actually want to be this guy's new dumpee?


OP, this is probably the most important thing in this thread. I had a shitty partner like this over my summer, and I put my head down and worked, because I figured it would ingratiate him to me and earn his trust/put me in his good graces.

Nothing was further from the truth. If anything, it just made him treat me even worse when I finally started full time because he knew I was a "workhorse." I escaped, but I had to switch practice groups to do so. Jus based on what you have told us, I'd say you want to give this particular partner a wide berth.

If there's one thing you need to develop in law, it's the ability to recognize when someone is asking for too much and politely saying no. If you don't, people will absolutely keep on squeezing you until there is no juice left.

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Re: Is it normal to work this much as an SA?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 11, 2019 11:28 am

I split my summer half with a satellite office of a big NY firm. The smaller office was exactly like this. They sometimes treat summers as first years -- I wouldn't say it's entirely abnormal in that context.

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Re: Is it normal to work this much as an SA?

Postby boredtodeath » Tue Jun 11, 2019 1:32 pm

I echo what RedGiant said. The purpose of the summer program is to meet as many partners/associates as you can in the group you want to work in. This one partner knows you now - great. The other partners/associates in the group likely don't, and, unfairly, might start to think of you as X Partner's "guy." If this partner really does suck to work for, that's not great for you moving forward at the firm.

My officemate during SA had this happen to him with a senior associate. He regularly missed the firm's social events to churn work for this senior - consistently staying late into the night. The senior wasn't even in a practice group he wanted to work in. Luckily for him, he was assigned to a different group when we came back to the firm as first years. But he had to play catch up. He didn't know as many people at the firm as he should have.

Moral of the story - spread yourself as broadly as you can within the practice area you want to work in while a summer. When you come back, everyone in the group will hopefully remember you (leading to an offer to join that group if that's how your firm works) and you'll learn who is/isn't good to work for.

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Re: Is it normal to work this much as an SA?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 11, 2019 1:41 pm

There's a lot of good posts ITT (esp. RedGiant's), so I'm reluctant to muddy the waters here. That said, based on everything you said, your hours as a summer are probably abnormal for that office/firm and you need to have a talk with someone in recruiting/summer associate programming in a way that reinforces your willingness to work but also hints at your wanting to join events, tips for effectively managing your time as a summer, blah blah blah and describes your overall situation without coming off like you're complaining.

My guess is that that particular partner is shitty to work for and can't staff any juniors as a result, so they're choosing to dump a bunch of shit on you. Everyone at the firm is probably aware of this but can't say anything to you because you're a summer (and the whole weird culture of summer associate programs), so I suspect that once you make people aware of the situation in a positive way (key phrase there), you can politely decline the partner's further requests and set yourself on a better path. They may even pull back based on lines of communication throughout the firm.

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Re: Is it normal to work this much as an SA?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 11, 2019 1:43 pm

Just to provide a contrary viewpoint.

For both of my SAs I went after very specific sets of work (antitrust lit/FTC enforcement that wasn’t M&A at one firm and international M&A, small/medium deals involving startups at another 1 V20 1 V10) and actively sought out the only those sets of work. Put differently, I did everything I could to make myself unavailable to partners that would give me work that I considered boring. I still clocked hours and satisfied the powers that may be that I saw what the groups had to offer but I made my desires very clearly known.

If you don’t know if your current partner is who you want to work for, you need to start talking and meeting more of the group.

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Re: Is it normal to work this much as an SA?

Postby Pulsar » Tue Jun 11, 2019 6:04 pm

You need to bill every hour you are working. Never write down your time. Recruiting needs to know how bad it is when they go tell that partner off.

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Re: Is it normal to work this much as an SA?

Postby objctnyrhnr » Sat Jun 15, 2019 5:39 pm

Pulsar wrote:You need to bill every hour you are working. Never write down your time. Recruiting needs to know how bad it is when they go tell that partner off.


At my firm, the idea of recruiting staff (or frankly anybody besides another partner or support staff with a very very established reputation/key relationship) telling a partner “off” is hilariously unrealistic. I just can’t envision that happening, no matter how warranted.

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Re: Is it normal to work this much as an SA?

Postby dabigchina » Sat Jun 15, 2019 5:46 pm

objctnyrhnr wrote:
Pulsar wrote:You need to bill every hour you are working. Never write down your time. Recruiting needs to know how bad it is when they go tell that partner off.


At my firm, the idea of recruiting staff (or frankly anybody besides another partner or support staff with a very very established reputation/key relationship) telling a partner “off” is hilariously unrealistic. I just can’t envision that happening, no matter how warranted.

It's firm by firm. My firm's recruiters have a plenty of sway - especially with regards to the summer program.

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Re: Is it normal to work this much as an SA?

Postby icansortofmath » Sat Jun 15, 2019 5:49 pm

I summered at two big firms and at both I have heard partners say they are happy to give me more work if committee and I are both okay with it. One DC office one NY.

I also know plenty of offices where whatever partners say goes.

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Re: Is it normal to work this much as an SA?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jun 16, 2019 12:02 pm

More benign explanation, summer billable hours can be written off without committee approval and so the partner is leveraging to keep his bill down. I’ve seen this happen even at my my v10



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