It’s that time again. Time for 2Ls (and a few lucky 1Ls) to join the ranks of the employed in the hopes of landing a permanent gig post-graduation. Of course, the substance of your work matters (a lot), but landing a full-time position from a summer associate gig requires more than just doing legal great work. What else do you need to do?
The summer associate gig provides an opportunity to meet lots of actual lawyers (law school, unfortunately, doesn’t always afford this chance). There will inevitably be some individuals with whom you really connect, and the summer is a great opportunity to forge a real and lasting relationship with these folks. Once you click with someone, offer to take them to breakfast or coffee occasionally (lunch can be hard for folks, especially associates, to schedule) and check in frequently. One of these people may end up being a long-term mentor or a job reference well into the future. (As an aside, your firm may pair you with someone assigned to be your “mentor.” You may or may not hit it off with this person, but don’t fret if you aren’t feeling the connection—maintain a pleasant relationship with your assigned mentor and keep meeting other people until you find your own kindred spirits.)
Play Well in the Sandbox
Your summer associate class may feel a bit like summer camp. There are planned activities, desserts at every meal, and camp counselors who act as cruise ship directors for the whole program. Just like camp, the whole experience is a lot more fun if you get to know your fellow campers. You may be returning to the firm in the future and these individuals could be your colleagues for the rest of your life. Alternatively, they may leave the firm and just remain darn good friends and referral sources.
When I was a summer associate, however, there were always one or two folks who were so freaked out about getting work done that they didn’t take the opportunity to get to know their fellow summer associates—they skipped happy hours and the Segway tour in order to create the perfect memo. Getting to know your colleagues is part of the job—and just as important as the substantive work.
Attend Legal Events
In addition to a slew of happy hours, lunches, and dinner cruises, you may also have the opportunity to tag along with partners and associates and witness depositions, oral arguments, or even part of a trial. Take advantage of these opportunities.
During one of my summer associate gigs, I had the opportunity to witness a federal court trial. That experience provided me with something substantive to say in my cover letter (and interviews) when the time came to apply for clerkships. Attending depositions and oral arguments is educational, and the partner or associate will appreciate your interest in their practice. After the event, you’ll likely have a chance to download with the attorney and hear their thoughts on the process and how it unfolded.
So yes, your substantive legal work matters, but firms are also looking for good citizens—people who are invested in their colleagues’ successes and are fun to be around. If you spend the summer working diligently in your office, people might not remember who you are at the end of the program. The summer associate gig provides an opportunity to forge meaningful relationships that may last the rest of your life—perhaps even longer than your stay at the big law firm itself.
(image: The Huts in Lake Reflection from Shutterstock)