Biglaw, Chadbourne & Parke, Rankings, Summer Associates

Very Happy Campers: The Top 10 Summer Associate Programs

Being a summer associate isn't a day at the beach, but it's still pretty awesome.

A summer associate program at a top law firm is like sex or pizza: even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.

That seems to be the conclusion of the American Lawyer’s 2011 summer associate survey. Am Law polled 3,656 students at 138 law firms about their summer experiences and used the results to rank 108 summer programs. The lowest-ranked program — that of Chadbourne & Parke, in case you’re wondering — still emerged with a healthy overall satisfaction score of 4.142 (on a 5.0 scale).

If you’re a law student trying to figure out where to spend your summer, you’re probably asking: Which law firms came out with the highest scores?

Here are the top 10 summer programs, as ranked by the American Lawyer:

I’m not surprised to see Gibson Dunn & Crutcher in the top spot. It’s a superb law firm, and when I visited the firm’s New York office a few months ago to speak to their summer associates, I was impressed by their collegiality and esprit de corps.

Rounding out the top five: Dickstein Shapiro, Bingham McCutchen, Foley Hoag (outside counsel to Above the Law / Breaking Media), and Katten Muchin. Congratulations to these fine firms — and congrats, in fact, to all of the firms in the survey. As noted, all did well, with no firm scoring below a 4 out of 5 in overall satisfaction. You can see how all 108 firms ranked over at Am Law.

In fairness, one could question how discriminating this year’s summer associates were as survey respondents, based on their collected gushy responses over at Am Law Daily:

“[E]very single person I have met is down to earth, friendly, and genuinely interested in making the summers feel like they are part of the family.”

“Attorneys like their jobs.”

“The people are very friendly and most of the big-firm horror stories don’t seem to apply to this firm.”

This comment from a summer made me sad:

“This has been the best summer of my life.”

No offense to Paul Weiss — which is where this person summered, and which is certainly a great firm — but what kind of childhood did this individual have? “This one time, at band camp… we assisted in drafting indentures!”

And the naïveté of this summer associate just blew my mind:

“It’s the American Dream: work hard and work smart and you will succeed.”

Until the economy goes south again, in a double-dip recession, and you get fired from the firm as part of stealth layoffs.

But you know what? There will be time enough for complaints (which you can send to Above the Law, of course). Reality will hit you upside the head soon enough.

For now, summer associates, just sit back and enjoy the fancy lunches and wine tastings and yacht rides. You can pay the piper in due course.

Summer Associates Survey 2011 [American Lawyer]
The American Lawyer 2011 Summer Associates Survey: Rational Exuberance? [Am Law Daily]

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