A Day in the Life of a BigLaw Associate

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Joshua Sohn

By Joshua Sohn

There are at least two contradictory stereotypes about associate life in large, national law firms (hereinafter “BigLaw”).  The first is that BigLaw associates work in a high-stakes, exciting world where their decisions have multimillion-dollar consequences for their corporate clients.  The second is that BigLaw associates live a life of drudgery, doing boring and tedious work that garners little praise and even less recognition.

As a sixth-year BigLaw associate, focusing on intellectual property and antitrust litigation, I think both stereotypes have some degree of truth.  In the past year alone, I deposed one of the most famous computer scientists in the world, wrote briefs that garnered commentary from major technology blogs, and flew to London to advise a client on strategy for a billion-dollar lawsuit.  On the other hand, I also reviewed privilege stamps on thousands of client documents, pored over hundreds of Kinko’s receipts to create an accurate Bill of Costs, and cite-checked partners’ briefs to ensure that their cites were in proper Bluebook format.  In short, both excitement and drudgery are integral parts of BigLaw associate life.

Indeed, the life of a BigLaw associate is varied and checkered enough that it’s difficult to describe a “typical” day.  Nonetheless, I will try to do so.  Individual results, as they say, may vary:

7:00 a.m.: Get up, throw on running clothes, and run the 4.5 miles to work.  This routine – running to and from work – has turned out to be a great idea.  By turning my commute into my daily exercise, I save a huge amount of time.  And it’s easier than you might think.  Almost all case documents are electronic these days, so I almost never need to take files to and from the office.  And I have a membership to the gym across the street, so I can shower off and not subject my co-workers to my sweaty self all day long.

8:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m.: Draft document subpoenas to third-party witnesses in a search engine patent case.  This task doesn’t sound too exciting – and it isn’t.  But various third-party witnesses inevitably have documents that are relevant to any given litigation, so the parties need to subpoena these witnesses in order to get their documents.  The trick is to make sure the document requests in the subpoena are broad enough to capture every scrap of paper that might be relevant to the litigation, while being narrow enough to convince a judge that you’re not just going on a fishing expedition.

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