Summer Associate Programs (Part III): Tips for Success



A large group of happy businessmen.  success.

‘We did it!’

I beat the odds, landing one of the relatively few and highly coveted offers to work for Biglaw as a summer assistant. Congratulations! Now, it is important to understand Why does the program exist?what you should expect from the programWhat the attorneys at Biglaw Firms expect from you as a summer associate and how to succeed.

During my many years at Am Law 100 as a partner, leader, and practice leader, including serving on law school recruiting teams and with my firm’s hiring committee, I have been responsible for the recruitment, evaluation, and training of several summer assistants. I’ve seen dozens of Summer Fellows come and go, and I’ve worked with Summer Fellows from nearly every law school that usually sends law students to Biglaw firms. Summer Partners’ ratings ranged from the incredible (in a bad way) to the extraordinary. Over and over again, the exceptionally successful summer classmates seem to do the same things.

What are these things? And how can you maximize the likelihood of success in your summer associate program (i.e. receiving a full-time job offer at the firm after graduating from law school)? Here are some of these things and tips for success, some excerpted from the book Secret big law.

  1. Do your research in advance. Sometimes the Summer Associates’ experience of working with a training group differs materially and substantially from their experience of working with that training group as an assistant, which causes them to be deeply unsatisfied as a colleague. In other words, some training groups are great at making persuasive sales pitches during the summer program, but once you “buy in,” you’ve been duped. Law students should research the potential firm and potential practice groups of interest before or at the start of their summer program, and focus their time and efforts on working with the “best” practice groups they think they would like to work with. in as an assistant. This research may (and ideally should include) speaking with 3Ls who were summer colleagues at the firm and junior colleagues in the firm/practice group(s) of interest.
  1. Remember that quality is much more important than quantity. As one of my mentors was fond of saying: “The correct answer is better than speed – it is very important to get the right answer and do a good job, as no one cares how quickly you can get wrong answers or a bad job.” This is something summer partners should always keep in mind. Biglaw companies expect a lot from partners in the summer (and even more, from partners), including high-flying amount Work in a timely and efficient manner. But the most important thing is that any work you do is of a very high standard Quality.
  1. Get work done, but also get out from behind the desk. One of the main goals of the Summer Associate Program is to match each Summer Associate with the most suitable training group—ideally, a match that suits both sides. It is often the events and social moments that take place away from the office that allow the summer assistant and attorneys to get to know each other and determine the best suitable training group. Summer Associates should plan to come to the office as early and/or stay as late as needed to complete their work, to have time to attend social events, informational lunches on training groups, informal coffee talks, etc. Remember: people like to work with people they like, and people who are like them. Get your work done and then get out from behind the desk, get to know your potential future colleagues and decide whether you like them or not, and give them a chance to get to know you and like you.
  1. Always be prepared and accurate. Never go anywhere in the company without a paper notebook, two pens (in case one runs out of ink), and your cell phone at work. Summer Fellows can take quests in hallways, elevators, over coffee, etc. If you are invited to listen in on a call or participate in a meeting, call or present at least two to five minutes before your scheduled start time (and time for possible elevator delays, getting lost, etc.) and be sure to show up prepared with any materials (eg, copies of relevant documents) and take notes. I once worked with a summer co-worker who was never prepared and never took notes. This made a poor impression on me and the other lawyers in our practice group, and resulted in them not being offered a full-time job with our practice group.
  1. Appearance is important for success. There is a saying that goes: dress the role you want. The Summer Fellows would like to receive an offer to join Biglaw’s company as an assistant, so they must dress at least as professionally as most Fellows, appropriate for each position. Look to other lawyers in your firm for guidance, since every firm has its own culture and dress standards, from business casual to business formal, and follow the lead of the majority who appear to be well respected and dressed appropriately. If you are in doubt about what to wear, don’t wear it and wear something more conservative/classic.
  1. Act professionally. Successful Summer Fellows act like they really are professionals, both inside and outside the company, including with regard to their use of social media, how they respond to emails, how they interact with colleagues and clients, and more. I once worked with a colleague in the summer who would respond to emails from partners with one-word “yes” or emoji responses. They have received professionalism counseling and have not received a full time job offer with our practice group. The little things matter when it comes to companies deciding whether or not to make full-time job offers. Make sure people remember you for positive things like the quality of your work, the professional way you act, etc., not as a “yes” guy.
  1. Display a positive attitude. Attorneys love working with other attorneys, summer colleagues, and staff who have positive attitudes. Demonstrating humility, a genuine desire to learn and understand, a willingness to rise to a challenge, and a willingness to help the team can translate to greater credibility and influence and, in my experience, a greater likelihood of a full-time job offer at the company.

Best wishes for success in your summer program and beyond!

part One This series covers why summer associate programs exist and the different approaches Biglaw companies take to them.

The second part This series covers what Biglaw attorneys can expect from summer partners and what summer partners can expect from the program.

DW Randolph is the pseudonym of the attorney who is or was a partner, “The Rainmaker”, and Head of Practice at an Am Law 100 firm, who has practiced law at several major Am Law/Vault law firms in New York City and other large law firms in the United States. City, for many years, and author of the popular “tell all” book and resource guide to all things Bigelow, titled Secret big law (affiliate link). DW has served in corporate and office-wide leadership roles within its Biglaw subsidiaries and has led or been involved in nearly all aspects of Biglaw’s operations, from hiring summer assistants and attorneys, compensation, performance evaluation and promotion, to corporate governance and initiatives focused on diversity and inclusion, and more that. DW graduated with honors from a law school historically ranked by US News & World Report as one of the top 10 law schools in the United States, and taught at a law school historically ranked by US News & World Report as one of the best law schools. One of the 14 best law schools in the United States


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