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What it’s Like to be a First Year Associate in a Pandemic

Most first year associates worry about networking, deadlines, and new colleagues, but for two new associates at Hinckley Allen’s Boston office, the first year experience came with a new concern: the global pandemic. Despite the unusual circumstances, both new associates are off to a great start at Hinckley Allen.

Steven D. Catanach and Garrison L. Doodlesack, both of whom were hired after serving as summer associates, joined the Firm in January 2021. Steve works in the Real Estate practice and Garrison works in Litigation and the Construction and Public Contracts practice. Both needed to quickly learn how to hone their craft without getting the normal exposure at the office.

First year jitters

“At the beginning of the pandemic, there were more questions than answers for many recent law school graduates,” said Steve. “Having already been hired at Hinckley Allen, I was grateful not to add interviewing to the growing list of stressors.” As timelines evolved and start dates were pushed back, Hinckley Allen was proactive in reaching out to Garrison and Steve lessening concerns about what the future held, at least career wise.

Digital mentorship

Joining a firm as the new hire is tricky in the best of scenarios, but starting as a first year associate working from home had unique challenges. Meeting regularly with mentors, attorneys, and staff online has been one way to stay connected. “The real estate group is a smaller team and it’s got a great, tight-knit dynamic. I knew most of the people from the summer associateship and that really helped ease the transition,” said Steve.

Some things stay the same

One thing that the pandemic did not seem to impact was the workload. “As a first year associate, I’d say this year is meeting my expectations because I really just expect the unexpected. You get lots of variety in your work in the first year. You’re working on pieces of multiple cases across a range of matters,” said Garrison. “You don’t actually learn how to be a transactional lawyer in law school, so most of my work is learned through working with others on cases,” added Steve.

The workplace of the future

With so many law firms finding creative ways to stay productive during the pandemic, flexibility of location may be here to stay. “While I don’t mind the pandemic lifestyle of getting out of bed and getting to work, I do find that some tasks and conversations are easier face to face. With so much nuance to each case and with the law, in-person collaboration is a valuable tool. I’ve enjoyed being back in the office part time over the last couple of months,” said Garrison.

Rolling with the punches

Since the initial lockdown, Hinckley Allen has been adapting to the ever-changing recommendations and regulations concerning COVID-19 while also maintaining a “person-first” approach. These days more people are coming into the office as vaccinations climb. “I’m looking forward to the future here. I’m ready to tackle whatever comes my way and pitch in however I can,” said Steve.


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