Welcome to Blacklines & Billables!
Welcome to Blacklines & Billables, a blog and forum focused on practical tips and tricks for success for Biglaw associates. Our goal is to help new (and not-so-new) lawyers share notes on how best to get up to speed, develop and excel in the fast-paced and demanding world of Biglaw.
A while back, I decided to write a simple book to pass along to incoming/junior associates a few lessons I’d learned from my own early years of practice and development as a Biglaw lawyer. Specifically, I wanted to help others avoid some of the seemingly countless situations in your first few years of practice where you spend hours stumbling through a task in a backwards, inefficient or ineffective way only to learn after-the-fact that there’s a better, more simple or well-trodden path to the same or a better result. I can’t tell you the number of times I wanted to just bang my (usually sleep-deprived) head against the wall, throw my hands up, and scream, “WHY DIDN’T SOMEONE JUST TELL ME THAT WHEN I STARTED!?!”.
I discussed the idea with a bunch of colleagues and friends at other firms, and I realized two things. One, there’s a huge, nearly universal appetite out there for better ways to share knowledge and learning about how to learn the Biglaw ropes and be more effective and efficient at the job. Two, while I hope that I have some valuable insight to offer from my own experiences, this project would be infinitely more valuable if it were a dynamic, responsive and crowdsourced venture—drawing on a wide range of perspectives and diverse experiences from lawyers with different working styles to create conversations and a body of learning around the most common pain points of associates in the Biglaw trenches today and the best way to navigate around them. This blog and forum was the response.
Our long-term goal for B&B is to create a platform for those conversations and to house that learning so that current, future (hey 3Ls!), and even a few past (yours truly) Biglaw associates can share notes with one another the practical tricks of the trade and crowdsource answers to questions they might not be comfortable—for one reason or another—asking in another setting.
In- vs. Out-of-Bounds
B&B is about the practical side of Biglaw practice, not substantive questions of law. (We view training and education on the latter as your firm’s responsibility, and we intend to stay entirely out of their way on that front.) In language that should resonate with any current or former law student, you might think of our community as being about the procedural, as opposed to the substantive, aspects of the job.
That means that we’ll be starting conversations about topics such as:
- effective time-keeping practices;
- version control of large documents with multiple authors/commenters and best practices for using a shared document-management system;
- managing communications with seniors and other team members (e.g., asking the right (and right number) of questions, prioritizing work, establishing and meeting deadlines);
- tactfully responding to questions to which you don’t know the answer;
- instructing paralegals and the word-processing department;
- managing your own staffing and capacity/juggling matters without losing your mind;
- finding great secondary resources to get yourself up to speed on an unknown topic; and
- adding value on day one (even though you really don’t know anything yet).
We’ll also address some more high-level and thematic topics about how to develop and excel as a Biglaw associate, such as how to own your own development at the junior level and take charge of your own training in an actionable way.
We will NOT be providing answers to substantive questions of law or providing guidance on the substance of actual client (or other) work. Again, that’s the purview of your firm.
To illustrate the distinction, if you’re about to begin a capital markets rotation at your firm, you might look to the B&B community for help tracking down the best secondary resource for explaining the rules applicable to private placements under the U.S. securities laws (such as the Johnson & McGlaughlin “Corporate Finance and the Securities Laws”—a personal favorite); but you won’t be coming to the community for substantive guidance on what those rules entail or explanations of how they might apply in various factual scenarios.
Finally, two very important points to underscore—both of which, I’m sure, go without stating, but which we want to make explicit nonetheless:
- although most folks in our community and posting content our site will be lawyers, nothing here constitutes legal advice; and
- under no circumstances will the posting of any content that contains even a whiff of potentially confidential information (about clients, your firm or otherwise) be tolerated. We take our professional obligations as lawyers very seriously, and we expect you to do the same.
At the outset, we’ll be getting the conversations going with regular blog posts on Tuesday mornings (and, for the first few weeks until the blog has a critical mass of content, a few additional posts along the way). We know you’re incredibly busy people, so if you want to provide your email address below or in the sidebar, we’ll send the new posts directly to your inbox. (If future post series increase the frequency of posts, which is likely, we’ll organize a weekly digest version so you can hear from us once a week, if that’s better for you.)
Given our mission, and the fact that a new crop of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed lawyers (or soon-to-be lawyers) is about to descend on the Biglaw world, we thought it made sense to start with a series of posts entitled “Biglaw Basics”. These posts will be on topics aimed to help those brand-new junior associates put their best foot forward and come out of the gates as quickly and effectively as possible.
Thereafter, there’s a pretty long list of topics that we’ll definitely address at one point or another, but it’s very important to me that B&B focus on what YOU want to hear about. For that reason, there’s a discussion topic within our forum, “The Issues List” or TIL (law students, if that doesn’t make sense to you now, just wait…), for the community to propose topics for future posts. Even if you don’t have suggestions of your own, you can weigh in by “liking” the suggestions of others.
Finally, in the medium and long term, we have a few ideas for other series of posts and different types of content for B&B, and we’ll keep you abreast of when those are set to launch—so stay tuned!
(One last note on our blog: Some of the content may tend to skew towards transactional practice, given my own background—check out our Authors page for a quick bio—but we’ll strive to publish lots of content that is applicable across all practices, so don’t worry if one or two posts you come across seem less applicable to your particular situation. And if you come across something that seems less relevant to your circumstances, we’d love it if you took that as an opportunity to share your own practice-specific tips and tricks in our forum!)
“The Issues List” Forum
Again, we want to start conversations within our community and crowdsource the learn-the-ropes knowledge base. Hence, The Issues List!
The Issues List, or TIL, is a place where you can weigh in and continue the conversations on the topics raised by the blog posts, share your own tips and trips for success, and ask questions from peers when you need a little guidance. It’s also a place where you can leave feedback for the B&B team and suggest topics for future blog posts. In all cases, when you come across something that you agree or want to echo, give the post a “like” so that we know something is resonating with a number of people. The forum will obviously work better and better the more people that are engaged, so if you’re one of our early community members, please get involved early and often.
(The current version of forum is pretty bare bones just to get the ball rolling. We’re currently testing a few alternative and more robust forum solutions, so stay tuned.)
Two heads are better than one. And a thousand heads are certainly better than two. We would love for you to get as involved in the B&B community as possible, so please:
- engage with our blog posts by (a) reviewing them (see the little stars at the bottom) so that we know which posts you’re finding most valuable (b) leaving (and reviewing—see the little upvote/downote buttons) comments and (c) continuing the discussion in our forum under the relevant TIL topic;
- weigh in on what conversations you’d like to see us start by proposing (and “liking” existing proposals for) future blog post topics in TIL;
- start your own conversations by (a) sharing a tip or trick that has helped you in your own practice or (b) asking a question to the community—both in TIL; and
- follow us on Twitter @BnBlegal and Facebook and subscribe to our mailing list (form in the sidebar).
TIL also has a forum topic for general community feedback in the “Community Rules and Feedback” forum. We’d love to hear what you think about anything and everything.
Finally, if you’d like to get even more involved (to guest author your own post on B&B, for example), you can always reach us directly by email at team [at] blacklinesandbillables (dot) com.
Thanks for reading, and we hope you’ll be an active member of the B&B community moving forward!
(tl;dr: It’s a new blog and forum crowdsourcing practical tips and tricks (not substantive legal training) for Biglaw associates. Blog posts every Tuesday. A forum for everyone to chip in their own tips and ask questions of the community. Follow us on Twitter and sign up for the newsletter.)