What Not To Do As A Summer Associate

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As many 2Ls embark on the transition from exams that don’t really matter to a 10-week interview that doesn’t feel like an interview, there are several things to keep in mind. Even though I walked away from my summer with an offer in hand, I wish I read these Do’s and Dont’s before I walked through the pearly gates of biglaw.

Do:

Know you are most likely going to get an offer at most biglaw firms (“most likely” explained in the don’ts below).

Be enthusiastic.

Even if you have to fake it. Associate and Partners almost take for granted that summers will be excited about being here – but they recognize when someone isn’t enthusiastic and while not a dealbreaker, it doesn’t help.

Meet as many people as possible.

It’s a numbers game. You want as many people as possible to vouch for you when evaluation season comes. Coffees, lunches, happy hours. This is a 10-week period of your life where you want to put everything else on hold (as much as you can) and focus on making a lasting good impression.

Exercise.

These seems to contradict the point above, but you have to make time for exercise (even if it means sacrificing sleep in the morning or at night). The lunches and happy hours add up (….to an extra 20 pounds I gained during this summer of excess) and your body and mind will get away from you if you don’t make time for them.

Ask questions.

When you meet an attorney or a group of attorneys during the first few weeks, think of some questions to ask and ask them. Now is the time to risk being seen as a gunner and ask a question. It does not matter how trivial or silly or teacher’s pet-y the question seems. Ask it. Here are some good ones:

  • “What are some of the common mistakes you see from summer associates each year?”
  • “What are some tactics, tips, or tools you would recommend to be the best summer associate we can be?”
  • “What is a piece of advice you wish you received when you were a summer associate?”

Don’t:

It’s most likely in the first bullet above because there are always exceptions. The offer is yours to lose. But here are ways you can actually rip defeat from the jaws of victory and lose the offer…

Don’t blow off an assignment.

Believe it or not, it happens. Sometimes summers get too much on their plate and either miss a deadline or fail to communicate about missing a deadline. These are cardinal sins that will be talked about when the recruiting committee evaluates your summer. The remedy? Communicate. We all know summers are busy with social events, lunches, coffees, etc. and it is easy to lose track of time. As soon as you realize you are unable to meet a deadline, tell your assigning partner/associate. And only do so if you really think you will miss that deadline. The better solution is to work a little harder to get that assignment turned in on time. You know what you are signing up for by going into biglaw, so it may be good to figure out if you actually like the late nights as a summer.

Don’t be overly competitive with your fellow summers.

It’s a bad look. Remember you are there because the firm wants to hire you full-time. You don’t need to build yourself up by putting other people down. Besides being generally good life advice, there’s only downside risk when you undercut another summer in front an attorney. We want all the summers to “play nice” and it’s actually heartening to see them all get along and hang out outside of the firm. Building friendships with your summers will help you in the long-term too; you will all likely be coming to work full-time in a year and a half, so even if you’re not bffs with the other summers, don’t be the hyper-competitive summer that stands out for all the wrong reasons.

Don’t make a fool of yourself at summer events.

Again, this may seem like common sense but it happens every year at summer events across the country. You have to stay disciplined no matter how friendly the partners/associates are acting or how fun the event may seem. It’s easy to lose sight of that with an open bar and a bill you won’t have to pay, but never forget….

Don’t forget that this is all a drawn-out, weeks-long interview with your legal career hanging the balance.

No pressure. But it’s true. Almost an uncomfortable truth given how fun the summer may seem. Yes there are fun social events, so much food that gaining “summer associate weight” is a legitimate issue, and a feeling of invincibility because the full-time offer is basically already in hand. Don’t forget it’s an interview and you won’t risk losing the offer that is yours to keep.

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