Summer associates can understandably be intimidated when it comes to new assignments. After all, this is new territory. It’s important, though, to not let fear get in the way. Always ask questions – it’s the only way to fully understand the project you’re working on and be sure that you’re delivering the work product that’s being requested. Even the best-researched answer is of little use if it’s not answering the right question. If you’re an attorney helping to mentor summer associates, encourage them to ask questions and help them learn the right kinds of questions to ask in order to deliver the caliber of work that partners and clients expect.
A summer associate position is an important point in any legal career – this is a law student’s first exposure to how the legal world really works and what it takes to succeed as a lawyer. Whether you’re one of the thousands of new summer associates embarking on a new position or one of the countless attorneys who will help show those summer associates the ropes, there are things you can do to help create the most successful summer associate experience possible.
The following tips and tricks will help summer associates succeed at their firms and make the first important steps on the journey to being successful lawyers.
Going hand in hand with asking the right questions is being clear and assertive in all communications. Summer associates shouldn’t be afraid to seek out the attorneys they want to work with and the kinds of assignments they want to work on. Whether it’s in the office or at a firm cocktail reception, putting yourself out there and on peoples’ radar will make it more likely that they turn to you when they have work that needs to be done. Be sure, though, to think clearly before starting conversations or sending emails. After all, you only get one chance to make a first impression.
Summer associates will quickly learn that being a lawyer means spending a lot of time with the other people who work in the office. It should come as no surprise that law is a demanding and sometimes trying profession, so cultivating a support network within the firm is crucial to personal well-being. If you make great friends in the process, even better – just remember that work is still work, and excessive socializing should be kept outside the office.
One key tip for succeeding as a summer associate is knowing when you need help and where to look for it. Support staff at the office can make a summer associate’s life infinitely easier, and the associates who are friendly and respectful will be first in line when help is needed. Basic human courtesy may seem like a given, but there are always a few summer associates who become enamored with their new positions and a sense of power that leads them to disregard the people that are best positioned to help them succeed. The same is true for vendors – building good relationships with providers you can trust, like court reporting companies, will be crucial to getting through the most stressful times.
Feedback is crucial to helping summer associates become successful attorneys. Ideally associates and partners will willingly offer it, but if they don’t, summer associates should actively seek it out. Simply put, if you don’t know whether you’re doing things right, you’ll never become the best lawyer you can be. Even if mistakes were made, and they inevitably will be if you’re a new attorney, learning from them is the important part.
Being a summer associate is one of the most exciting parts of your career. By following the tips and tricks outlined above, you’ll be well on your way to landing a permanent job and succeeding in the legal profession.