I went to a luncheon for lawyers and law students at a firm in downtown San Francisco yesterday. Here are some things I learned:
1. Associates at this particular firm work 40 to 60 hours per week. The work schedule is slightly flexible, i.e., the 9-to-5 workday does not have to be strictly observed, but weekend and late night hours are sometimes required. Additionally, as associates gain seniority, they take on more responsibilities, which translates into more work hours.
2. Billable hours are different and always fewer than actual hours worked. Billable hours are determined first by the person who worked them and later assessed by a more senior lawyer. Some firms have managers who perform an additional round of assessment.
3. To optimize their resumes, fresh law school graduates should try to gain experience in large firms before working for smaller firms.
4. The bigger the firm, the more age-discriminatory and systematic the hiring process. Many large firms prefer to hire younger graduates because they are perceived as more teachable.
5. Law Preview–a week-long summer prep course that teaches pre-first year law students how to succeed in their courses.
6. “Don’t study hard, study smart.” – a third year law student at University of San Francisco
Learning to outline notes and seeing the big picture are more important than putting in lots of study hours.