Law School 101: Top 5 Tips for Summer Associate Success

It’s that time of year again!  Summer associates around the country are descending full throttle on large law firms, ready and excited to spend the next 10-12 weeks checking out what coveted big firm life is all about.

Top 10 Tips for SUCCESSAS A SUMMER ASSOCIATE

In order to gear up for a successful, productive and fun summer, here are my top 10 tips for success as a summer associate:

1.   Start building relationships now.  You should make it a point to work with as many attorneys (partners ans associates alike) over the course of the summer.  Begin to form individual relationships with attorneys who will be able to informally mentor you throughout the summer and may advocate for you when it’s time to make full time offers.  It will also be helpful to have friendly faces and mentors when you return to the firm as a first year associate.

2.    Lunch etiquette.  Expect to receive a lot of invitations to lunch through the summer, and take full advantage.  Lunch dates are an excellent way to meet different attorneys in the firm and to make a personal impression (see tip #1).  Take your cues from your dining partner, but bear in mind a few rules.  You should order modestly, but in line with what your host orders (in other words, don’t order the lobster if your host is ordering the chicken fingers, but if your host orders the lobster, feel free to do the same).  I tend to avoid foods that are messy and difficult to eat politely (tacos, for example).  Under no circumstances should you order alcohol, even if your host orders a drink.  If you have been invited to lunch by an attorney at the firm, it is safe to assume that the firm is hosting and will pay the bill.  If, however, there is any doubt once the check is placed on the table, it’s fine to help offer to pay.  If your host declines your offer to split the tab, just accept graciously and offer thanks.

3.    Request feedback on your assignments.  The only way you will know how you’re doing as a summer associate and how your work is perceived by the associates and partners at your summer firm is to simply ask.  Requesting candid feedback after you’ve turned in an assignment will help you address and improve any weaknesses and concerns.  Within a few days of completing an assignment (if you wait too long, your evaluator won’t remember), ask the assigning partner if he or she was pleased with your work and what suggestions he or she has for improvement.  Your follow up will not go unnoticed, and your interest in improvement will be impressive to the assigning partner.  If you have any questions or concerns after receiving feedback, be sure to speak with your mentor, the assigning partner, the summer associate coordinator, or even an associate whose opinion you trust.

4.    Proofread, proofread, proofread.  Every single piece of work you turn in, including even the most mundane emails, should be the absolute highest quality work you’re capable of.  You should be triple checking every word.  Period.  No exceptions here.

5.    Treat support staff well.  This should go without saying, because you’re a Law Babe and you treat everyone with kindness and dignity.  Treat support staff well, not only because it’s just the right thing to do, but also because they can also be an invaluable resource to you.  Never boss them around, and never act like an entitled know-it-all.  At this point, the support staff knows a heck of a lot more than you.  They know the lay of the land and can be an invaluable source of information and assistance.

6.    Keep a file with copies of all of your assignments.  Keep copies of your work.  Having a file with everything you’ve done at the work will help you provide specific examples of what you’ve worked on in future interviews and on your resume.  You might also be able to use your summer assignments as future writing samples, provided that you should always receive permission and appropriately redact the document before using it as a writing sample.

7.    Remember that you are always being evaluated.  I do not care how drunk the associates get at the summer finale party.  I don’t care how great the gossip is about the nightmarish partner that no one wants to work for.  You are not to follow suit or join in, and you are always to keep your wits about you.  It doesn’t matter how cool you are with any of the associates.  They are not your friends.  You must always assume that you’re being evaluated and that anything you say or do will get back to the firm.  I’m being serious on this one.  I don’t like to say “trust no one,” but trust no one.

8.    Maintain a constant work flow and ask for more work if you need it.  You should never be sitting around without an assignment to work on.  You should have a consistent stream of work throughout the summer in order to build relationships, stay productive, and be learning.  If you are slow on work or anticipate that your current assignment will be ending, approach your mentor or the summer program coordinator and speak up.  If you’re not busy and someone discovers that you haven’t asked for more work, the firm will not be impressed with your work ethic.

9.    Keep your doubts private.  If you’re having doubts about the firm, its people, or your desire to even practice law at all, save them for your close friends and family.  Don’t share any reluctance with colleagues at the firm, including other summer associates.  Again, I don’t care how friendly you are with anyone.  You can safely assume that anything you say during the summer will make its way back to the hiring committee.  If they catch wind that you’re anything but enthusiastic about joining the firm, you can kiss your offer goodbye.

10.    Just be cool.  Don’t take this personally, but no one expects much from your work as  a summer associate (however, remember tip #4).  You’re being evaluated on your potential for success at the firm, which includes how you would fit in with the firm’s culture.  Keep your positive attitude going all summer, be courteous and friendly, and let everyone know you’re happy for the opportunity that you’ve been presented.  Don’t complain about anything.  Last, but definitely not least, remember that you’re also being evaluated by the firm’s associates who would be training you as a baby lawyer at the firm.  They want to know that you’re normal, fun, friendly, and would be easy to work with.  Don’t get too comfortable, but maintaining a great rapport with them will go a long way in securing an offer at the end of the summer.

Do you have any pieces of advice for summer associates?  Share them in the comments!

Stay Smart and Sexy, Law Babe!

xoxo.

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