A Lesson from Breaking Bad on Succeeding in Your Internship Part Two

We already know from an earlier blog post that to succeed in your internship, you should be humble. But Breaking Bad also teaches us to go above and beyond.

Go above and beyond

Breaking Bad showrunner, Vince Gilligan, recently said of Ariel Levine “Ariel is a winner” and “she is going to take over Hollywood some day.” Prior to working with Vince Gilligan, Ariel had not had a job in the entertainment industry last longer than six months.  Yet Ariel Levine just got promoted to be the new writer’s assistant on Better Call Saul.  So how did Ariel get from point A to point B?

Ariel studied film and television at Boston University and while she was there, she pursued every film-related internship she could find, including working on a Boston University soap opera. From there, she took 2-5 month jobs on shows, wherever she could get them. Five months as a Casting Assistant on Wipeout? Check. Two months as a Casting Assistant on a a film called “I’m A Teenage Bride”? Check. One month as a temporary post-production Assistant on Breaking Bad? Check. And then 15 months doing temporary gigs on television shows until Vince asked her to join the Better Call Saul team as a post-production assistant.

Ariel had only one month of work on Breaking Bad to show how good she was but that was all she needed.

From the day she started on Better Call Saul and during her time on Breaking Bad, Ariel went above and beyond. In this season of Better Call Saul, there was a complicated scene where one character was convincing another character to retain their law firm instead of going with a young start-up. Ariel had no legal background but she researched the scene extensively. She became an expert on one legal issue, the community reinvestment act, even taking her spare time on the weekend, to go to a law library to read up on it. No one asked her to go to the law library. She did it because she thought detailed knowledge of the legal issue was needed so she went out and learned..

For anyone familiar with Breaking Bad, you might know that Vince is obsessed with attention to detail and goes very far to ensure that his shows think through even the smallest of things. In true Vince Gilligan form, this season’s Better Call Saul featured a scene involving a huge montage of legal paperwork. Every document that you see on screen had to be researched. Ariel made the documents and meticulously researched them so if you pause during the show, they all look accurate.  The actors noticed it when interacting with the documents and told Vince about it.

Because she consistently went above and beyond, Vince promoted her to the writer’s assistant position.

Vince said of Ariel’s rise on the show “If you get a job as an assistant in a show, what does it take to advance and excel? There are many people who mess up. At her age, I would have been the guy who would get coffee and all that but by end of the first week, I would have wanted to slip the boss my script or direct something. But the best way to impress the boss when you’re starting out is to be the best assistant. Ariel is the best PA Assistant I have ever worked with because she paid her dues. She went to a law library. Nobody told her to do that.”

Vince continued, saying “If your first job is to get coffee or make the lunch run, concentrate at that first with a smile on your face. We live in a world of instant gratification where kids are brought up to be told you’re a winner and there are no losers. You have got to pay your dues in any business.”

You too can have this attitude in any legal job in which you work. Pay your dues. Research a minute issue that does not interest you because a Partner asks you to research it and go above and beyond on the project. Take advantage of the opportunities you are given while in law school. Always think about how to make life easier for the Partner or the person who gave you the assignment. Ask yourself how you can create a product so that when they receive that product, their job is easier.

For a legal story on this topic, I saw the General Counsel of Dyson speak at a conference last year and he said that he gave two attorneys an assignment to prepare him with case law for a meeting with General Counsels from another company. One attorney gave him a one page document succinctly summarizing the issues, with easy references. Another attorney gave him a behemoth ten page memo loaded with case law. The General Counsel of Dyson said that the first attorney nailed the assignment because he was able to refer to that document during the meeting whereas the second attorney failed the assignment because he “failed to give him what he needed.” He technically did the assignment but totally failed to think about what would be useful to his boss in that moment. With any assignment you are given, think about why the attorney assigned it to you. How are they going to use it?

As Vince says:

“You have the opportunity to do as much as you want. If you want to do the base level of work, you will do fine but if you want to excel and move up, put in the extra time. There’s a lot of work where you can say that is not my job or I am not getting paid for that. Well, so what. You are given this incredible opportunity.”

Be humble and go above and beyond. People will notice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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