First Week at the Firm: Five People You Should Avoid

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on April 27, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Welcome to "First Week at the Firm," a new FindLaw feature for beginning associates, focused on helping you navigate the transition into firm life. We hope you'll enjoy this new series and come back regularly for more insider tips.

Remember the kid in grade school who cheated off your test, then complained when his score wasn't high enough? Or the girl you politely made conversation with at the law school mixer, only to have her latch on to you like a blood starved tick for the rest of the night? Guess what -- those people are now your new coworkers!

As you get used to life at a firm, it's important to know not only who deserves your attention and good will, but also which characters are better left alone. Some of them are real danger to your precious time, some are just not good to be around. So, to give you a leg up on the competition, here's five folks to avoid at your new firm:

1. The Jerk

Remember, some of the most important people you need to befriend at a firm aren't lawyers. They're the support staff who keep everything running smoothly. Yet, there's always someone who thinks he's too good to treat the legal secretary or IT team with simple respect; he may be even worse with opposing counsel. Let's call him 'the Jerk.' Even if he's nice to you, if the Jerk doesn't treat the rest of the firm well, so stay away, lest you get tarred with the same brush.

Score on the time-suck scale (1-10): A 3, but stay away for all reasons mentioned above.

2. The Self-Promoter

Watch out for someone who spends too much time reminding the world how great she is. Sure, this new associate might have been the editor of her school's top law journal, but there's no need to waste your time hearing about it. Besides being a time drain, these sort of narcissists can be risky to be around -- they'll be quick to take credit when something goes well, but they are far too good to take the blame.

Score on the time-suck scale: A 4 at most, but again, just give her lots of room.

3. The Guy with All the Time in the World

This is the associate who strolls in at 11:00 AM every morning, then takes a two hour lunch. He'll stay late every few days, but you're sure there's no way he's working a full week. How does he do it? He doesn't. Unless his father runs the firm, his lack of effort will show up in his performance review, when he finds out he hasn't been billing nearly as much as he should. So don't emulate his breezy attitude, or let him waste your precious billable time, tempting as it may be.

Score on the time-suck scale: A very scary 10. Beware.

4. The Complainer

Some people are just never happy and they love sharing it. In every office, there's at least one complainer, whether it's a grouchy secretary or a long-suffering partner. Don't spend too much time listening to their complaints though. Misery loves company and you don't need to give it yours. It's another time suck.

Score on the time-suck scale: A solid 8. Don't go there.

5. The Burnout

The Complainer at least has enough energy and life left to complain. The same can't be said for the Burnout. Whether they've been at the firm for four years or four months, the Burnout is simply over it. They may slug along miserably while looking for a new job, but they won't be much help to you in the meantime. If you can, stay away. Far, far away.

Score on the time-suck scale: Not really applicable. This one is just a downer.

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