I am starting this week on a temorary placement at a respected law firm. I take with me the wisdom from previous experiences.
And in taking my sucesses and my failures in stride, I came up with a list of what to do and what not to do when entering the legal workforce.
1. Do not underestimate the value of your appearance! Looks matter. Although many attorneys will say that they don't care what you wear to work, so long as you do the job right, there definitely is a certain stigma that is attached to you by way of your appearance. I have seen it with my own eyes. I have seen judges look with disdain at attorneys who wore bright colors and flashy shoes to court. I have seen the disparity in the way I get treated when I wear a suit, a dress or jeans.
My advice- wear muted colors and limit your accessories. Brown, biege, gray or navy-blue work very well. The image you want to get across is that you care more about your work than your clothes. Of course, you could easily accomplish this by wearing jeans and a t-shirt to work. too, but jeans and a T-shirt scream the word "slacker!".
2. Do not socialize unecessarily! You are there to work. It's understandable that you might want to build relationships and strengthen your bridges at your new firm, but there will always be time for that. Your priority should really be competence. You need to get the job done. For the first while, skip lunch and eat at your desk if you must. Don't stop at the offices of others and strike up conversation on the first day. You will have plenty of time to do that once you have proven yourself. For the first while, it will be the quality of your work and not your personality that will get you more points.
3. Go in early and work late. Get there before most of the other people in the office do and leave later than the rest. You don't necessarily need to be the first person in the office nor the last one to leave, but look at your timings relative to everyone else and be a notch more conservative than the rest.
4. Pay attention to the quality of your work! Your work will be the most important factor in making your first impression. Take down your assignments with a note-pad and work hard. Stay focused and ask questions if you don't know what you are doing. Also, try to gage your employer's expectations of the assignment and if you can, try to get hold of a sample of what he/she wants from you.