What does a day in the life of a junior associate look like? The answer to that question, like the answer to most questions in the legal profession, is “it depends.” Looking back over my last three years at Jones Day, the days fall into one of three categories: (1) banner days; (2) trial days; and (3) everyday days. As a young litigator, I find each category fulfilling, albeit in their own, unique way.
First are the banner days. These are the days I describe to my mother with giddy detail, the ones where growth feels most tangible. They include the days when I took my first deposition, led my first client call, or interviewed my first expert witness. In all these instances, a Jones Day colleague advocated for me to have the opportunity, then supported me through rough drafts, questions, and practice rounds until I felt prepared. I remember how reassured I was walking into my first deposition, knowing that I had a partner who was in my corner (metaphorically) sitting right beside me (literally).
After the deposition ended, my inbox filled with kind emails from case teams past, including partners in L.A. and San Diego who caught wind of my banner day from three time zones away. Here in New York, a mentor celebrated the accomplishment by sneaking a red mylar balloon in the shape of a #1 into my office, which took well over a month to deflate.
Then are the trial days, a not-so-distant cousin of the banner days in terms of tempo and growth. For me, trial days bring to mind the excitement of being in a courtroom, the satisfaction of telling a story, and the challenge of solving problems in real time. They require junior associates to be nimble, creative, and take ownership of certain witnesses and topics. Examples include partners affirmatively seeking and valuing my strategic input on assigned witnesses, and asking questions like, “should we use this exhibit, should we eliminate this line of questioning, or do we need a demonstrative to illustrate this point?” After years of building factual knowledge through document review and depositions, it is rewarding to have a hand in developing our final narrative. It is equally rewarding to see my associate colleagues shape strategy in the corners of the case which they know best.
More broadly, trial is a team sport. The success of the team is a product of paralegals, assistants, graphics vendors, clients, local counsel, associates, and partners working toward a common goal. And after weeks together in a war room far away from home, the team grows extremely close. My trial team included attorneys from five different practices and four Jones Day offices, but we still get together to re-tell the war stories as often as we can.
Finally, there are the everyday days. These days often begin with a run in Central Park and end with a quick bite at the restaurant where my colleagues across other Jones Day practices reliably hold court. These are the days where growth isn’t measurable or obvious, but where relationships and good habits are built. It is the flexibility and enthusiasm during the everyday days that lend themselves to the banner days. Likewise, it is the endurance and precision during the everyday days which prepare you for the trial days.
Separately, though just as importantly, these are the days where you can (and should) live out the “interests” section of your resume. Write poetry. Play pick-up hockey. Call your sister. I know I’ve certainly been encouraged over the past three years to make time for the things and people outside of work that are important to me. For me, that includes a Barry’s Bootcamp class, sending restaurant postcards to my grandma, or trying to make vegetarian cooking taste good.
Now, I began this essay with a tried-and-true answer, “it depends.” And it does. It depends in part on the obvious factors, like whether you practice corporate or litigation law, and where you live and work. But most importantly, it depends on you. I’ve found that Jones Day is a place where you get the opportunities you’re willing to ask for and work toward. You get to build your own adventure based on the relationships you foster and the skills you acquire. So, this what a day in my life as a junior associate looks like. But what a day in yours might look like is largely up to you.
Mikayla Paolini is an associate in the New York office of Jones Day. The views and opinions set forth herein are the personal views or opinions of the author; they do not necessarily reflect views or opinions of the law firm with which she is associated.
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