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For many, working as a summer associate at BigLaw may be the first time working in a corporate environment. Even if it isn't an associate's first time in a corporate environment, there's an art to navigating your way through corporate hierarchy -- and it doesn't mean just looking to the top.
If you really want to know what goes on in a company, look to support staff. Here are some tips for interacting with support staff.
If you go to work at BigLaw thinking that you're fancy and are only going to hobnob with partners, please stop. First, get any notion that you're fancy out of your head -- now. Be humble. Next, be aware of how you treat everyone at the firm. You should treat admins, paralegals and the doorman just as you do partners and associates. Treat everyone equally, and with respect. Period.
Support staff is there to support you so don't be afraid to ask questions. They will, more often than not, have the answers you need. If you're having trouble with the photocopier,the phone system or getting the billing program figured out, the last person you should ask is your assigning partner -- the first person you should ask is an admin or paralegal. Not only can they help you with technical snags, but many support staff have been on the job for years. If you want to know how to impress a particular partner, ask her admin -- she will know.
In close step with treating everyone equally, don't underestimate the value in saying "thank you." Those two little words go a long way -- don't ever forget to say them.
Making a good impression at BigLaw means making a good impression on everyone at BigLaw -- including support staff. With offers not given as often as they used to be, you need to impress on all fronts. Don't think that if you have a bad run-in with a partner's admin of 15+ years, that she won't hear about it. Play it safe, and be polite to everyone.
It's the smart -- and the right -- thing to do.
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