Associates who want to get ahead should be ready to volunteer for difficult assignments. It's the only way around the catch-22 that prevents lawyers from moving up: to get experience, you need good assignments, but you can't get good assignments unless you have experience. The exception is when the assigning lawyer is in a pinch and there is no one else available. That's when you can step in and get to take your first deposition, get to argue your first appeal, or get to try your first case. You just have to be willing to volunteer.
Perhaps this much is obvious. What's difficult is putting yourself in the frame of mind where you're willing to make your life more difficult by taking on something you don't feel entirely comfortable with. But once the task is behind you, you'll be glad you accepted the challenge. Meanwhile, you'll set yourself apart from the others at the firm who never volunteer because it just seems too risky. Those are the lawyers who will never move ahead.