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Career Center: Feedback and the Art of Patience

In this week’s Career Center Summer Associate Tips Series, Lateral Link’s Frank Kimball, an expert recruiter and former Biglaw hiring partner, demystifies the process of receiving feedback as a summer associate.

As a law student, you may ask yourself: “What is it about attorneys and their inability to provide quality feedback in a reasonable amount of time?” Throughout law school you will have to wait weeks and months on end before receiving your grade on even multiple choice exams. Then, you move on to your summer clerkship and wonder if every single assignment you email gets sent to a black hole where it never gets read, much less utilized. The truth of the matter is, your work is being monitored, and you are being “graded” during your summer clerkship. But unlike your professors, the attorneys you work for at your summer law firm has legitimate excuses for not providing your grades in a reasonable timeframe.

Every summer associate wants to know how well they are doing. It is a natural human emotional need. Former New York Mayor Ed Koch used to call out to reporters: “How am I doin’?” He had to wait four years for an answer. Your answer will come at the end of the summer. All feedback systems depend on structure, forms, follow through, and a decidedly unreliable human element. Every spring, hiring partners and recruiting coordinators redesign reporting lines, meeting schedules, review forms, and many other ways to coerce their lawyers to put pen to paper and write reviews. As a hiring partner I tried systems, humor, cajoling, requests just short of Fed. R. Civ. P. 30 and 45, and sitting down in a lawyer’s office and filibustering until they completed the darn form.

To learn more on how to handle the feedback provided during your summer clerkship (or lack thereof), click here to read on. For additional career insights, as well as profiles of individual law firms, check out the Career Center.