‘What should I be doing as a new associate?’

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By Legal Cheek on


NQ seeks advice

In the latest instalment of our Career Conundrums series, a trainee due to qualify this spring is looking for some pointers on how to hit the ground running.

“I am about to qualify into a team at the City firm where I completed my training contract, and I am seeking some guidance. It there anything I can/should be doing differently compared to my time as a final-seat trainee? Any help with things that I should (or equally importantly shouldn’t) be doing would be greatly appreciated!

If you have a career conundrum, email us at team@legalcheek.com.



NQ is basically the same as equity partner. You can now do whatever you want with zero consequences. Congrats and best of luck!

Gotta start somewhere…

Making tea, lad!


False. Three of my NQ were fired within 6 months for various reasons.


Get billing!


Time recording has just gone from “a very important thing I do at work” to “the defining and all encompassing purpose of my very existence”.

Get. Every. Second. Down.

Also make sure you understand billing. Worth speaking to a friendly finance bod about this, they’re usually happy one of the lawyers asks in a calmer moment when there’s time to explain rather than screaming it down the phone at 4.55 on the last day of the month.

Ask one of the main partners you work with if they can talk you through the BD strategy for the team and how you can help. Different teans have different preferences (some teams like doing mainly webinars, articles etc. whilst some are all about lunch and pub with clients, most fall somewhere in between) and industry focuses.

Alternatively, ignore all the above, enter into a physical relationship with a major rainmaker and enjoy leisurely days of untouchable dossing.


Must say – suitable advice.

Partners run the business – you are now one of the individuals in the modern ‘sweatshop’ that is a law firm. You’re not employed to be clever, or intuitive, you are employed to bill as many hours as possible for the benefit and profit of the partners.


Way too overambitious advice for an NQ! They are basically a 5th seat trainee. If they can run a CP checklist without help people will be content. They are not expected to be winning work or doing BD – that is remit of equity partners. Even senior associates struggle on that front.


I’m not suggesting the NQ should be pulling in a £10m book of work, just doing stuff to help.

Helping with research for articles, going for lunch with your junior peers at clients, just getting access to the firm’s prepped LinkedIn materials so you can post whatever marketing dross has been produced that week etc.

Obviously BD shouldn’t be the focus of your work as a NQ but you should still be showing willing.


(In Miranda Priestly’s voice) “Your job”.

Kirkland NQ

Simple – you should be a Lambo.


Join a prestigious US firm.

Weiss is the only Paul around here

Paul Hastings, prestigious?


Learn who the a-holes are so you can avoid working with them. Get busy working with those that are respected, not feared, and you’ll set yourself up for a better learning and development experience early on.

Hope this helps, ta

Generally speaking, your work


Enjoy the new found wealth and try not to get fired loool

10 PQE-er

(i) continue to work hard and show willing – you’re a NQ not a seasoned associate so you’re not expected to know everything but are expected to muck in and get stuff done;

(ii) show an interest in long-term strategy of team / clients – you’re not a trainee who will be off in 6 months, you will now see projects / cases through the cycle;

(iii) ask questions – but learn best person to ask / best time;

(iv) it’s one thing to eff up internally and it happens to us all – but as ever fess up and own the problem, and do your best not to eff up in a way that exposes the partner to the client / embarrasses them.

(v) be a good and pro-active communicator and keep team abreast of smaller parts of the project you’re working on

(vi) as others have said, contribute to BD and developing expertise but you’re hardly expected to be snagging big new clients – as an in-houser my view is the best BD is doing good reliable work for existing clients, that will lead to referrals / recommendations from others they know in the industry. Also build good relationships with your peers as you don’t know where that will lead and where their careers will take them – in my last role in private practice we got a mandate as lenders’ counsel because a friend from a previous role was acting on sponsor side recommended our firm to his client.

Honest John

Be 100% honest 100% of the time.

Messing up won’t lose you your qualification.

Lying about it will.

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