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The 10-Step, ''No-Fail'' Guide to Distinguishing Yourself as a First-Year Associate

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Be a Prince (or Princess) Amongst Paupers.

Remember Prince...the Artist Formerly Known as Prince...who is now, apparently, Prince once again? I saw him today. I was finishing up minute 46 on a treadmill at the New York Sports Club on the Upper West Side of Manhattan when, lo and behold, he appeared before me clad in purple, heels, and big hair.

It's been a long time since I have loved Prince. Seeing him on the video screen fastened to my treadmill reawakened a lot of old feelings. Fascination. Confusion. Having the luxury of space and time between us now, however, I can look at him with a fresh eye. Simply put, in the 1980s world of big hair, Prince stood out. Why? From the moment he hit the music scene, his confidence, his musical abilities, his artistic generosity, and his presentation distinguished him from his peers. He acted like he belonged there. He wrote music like he belonged there. He carried himself like he belonged there. We believed he belonged there. He still belongs there.

Do you belong in the world of big firms? Do you stand out? Distinguishing yourself in law school is very different from distinguishing yourself amongst others in your first-year associate class. How is it possible that in a class of 60 first-year associates, one or two eventually crawl to the top? What do these people have that others do not?

Having spent several years practicing in a large New York City law firm, I have had my share of first-year associates sitting across the desk from me, taking notes, and running off to libraries to assist me with projects. Generally speaking, out of five associates who might work for me in a given year, I would inevitably pick only one associate to continue working for me. What made that one associate special? Why, inevitably, would that one associate become a "favorite" to other mid-levels, as well?

First-year associates often believe that they are not advanced enough in their careers to start establishing names for themselves. But it is never too early. In fact, if you wait until your second year to craft your identity, it may be too late. Partners and upper-level associates at firms generally form their impressions of associates fairly early on (sometimes even during their summer associate periods). So how can a new associate make himself or herself stand out from the crowd? It's easy. Be a prince (or princess) amongst paupers, or in the words of the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, remember that it's all about P-U-R-P-L-E R-A-I-N:

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