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Maximizing the Summer Associate Experience

May 22, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend, which is the unofficial start of the summer, is upon us.  Of course, with recent temperatures in the 50s and some night temperatures even in the 40s, it hasn’t always seemed like the summer. 

In addition to theoretically warmer temperatures, the summer season also brings another annual occurrence for large law firms and many smaller ones: the arrival of this year’s crop of summer associates.  Many of us young lawyers can harken back to those halcyon days and remember the free lunches, the numerous social activities, the limited responsibilities and, oh yes, the nice paycheck.  And nowadays, many summers have it better, with some trips to overseas offices and even more lavish dinners.

While the summer associates’ stint may seem like a big schmoozefest to some, it really represents a lot of opportunity to both the summers and the firm.  For the summers, it’s an opportunity to showcase your abilities and talents.  You may not know a particular field of law, but you can go about a particular assignment in the proper way.  As a summer associate, I was once assigned a project involving secured transactions.  Not knowing a thing about this field, I consulted some associates on the topic, read a study guide and eventually had working knowledge for the assignment. 

Also, for many summers, the “offer” for employment after law school is theirs to lose.  Regardless, you should not look at it as something to lose as much as you should view it a something to earn.  Work hard and take pride in your work. 

Meanwhile, employers are presented with the opportunity of hiring a new generation of attorneys for the firm.  The summer period is the time to find out if prospective new hires are a good “fit.”  There have been many capable folks I’ve seen that certainly have the intellectual ability but aren’t suited to long careers with the firm in which they spent their summer.   These folks either have not received offers or eventually don’t work out with the firm.  It’s up to the firms to ensure that the summer associate is truly evaluated, rather than just wined and dined.

Some would say that summer associates in general are overpaid, but firms have viewed them as a necessary investment for the future.  Both summers and firms alike, though, should seek to get the most of the experience.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. superaficionado permalink
    September 4, 2010 8:32 pm

    Although the summer associate experience may be a fun time for future lawyers, these positions are quickly changing. Many firms are cutting down on the size, and in some cases doing away with the program all together. It would not surprise me if these cushy summer associate programs were drastically redesigned in the upcoming years.

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