Ed. note: This is the latest post by Anonymous Recruitment Director, who offers an insider’s perspective on the world of law firm hiring.
So, you’ve arrived. You’ve been on-boarded. You’ve received your work i.d. and your email account has been activated. You’ve located the nearest bathroom. You’ve committed your secretary’s name to memory. You are eagerly awaiting your first assignment.
So how do you assure that you have the best summer possible? A summer where you have the chance to truly assess whether or not you like Biglaw (as opposed to a summer focused on whether Biglaw likes you)? A summer where you end up with an offer at the end?
Well, first of all, take a deep breath. There is a 99% chance that you will receive an offer (barring an economic collapse or a social blunder, discussed below). But, as you know, in this climate, you must be in that 99% or else you will become Biglaw recruitment poison. Big firms are not known to take a chance on a candidate who failed to receive an offer from a competitor. Regardless, as the economy improves, the odds are in your favor. So, try to relax.
Next, be yourself. You do not have to have to portray yourself as a legal mastermind; after all, the members of the firm appreciate that you are still in training. Rather, just do the work. And do your best. And while you are doing the work, ask yourself — is this really interesting to me? Could I really make a career out of this (at least, for a few years)? Do I like my coworkers and the Biglaw work environment?
To further put your mind at ease, let’s discuss the types of summer associates who often fail to receive offers. The decision to withhold an offer rarely has anything to do with a summer associate’s performance (after all, no one is going to ask you to do anything too advanced.) The one exception to this statement is a summer associate who fails to demonstrate that he or she can keep confidential information confidential. If you leak confidential information, you are an idiot and will be treated as such.
Over the years, I have seen certain types of summer associates fail to receive offers. These individuals include:
The girl who lacks boundaries. This girl, often a committed drinker, is the type of summer associate who feels the need to help get the party started. Unfortunately, no one has told her that there is no party to start. This girl is known for telling full-time associates to “lighten up” and to not to worry about work deadlines because “it will all be fine.” She works very hard to prove that she is cool and that she can have it all (meaning a $160,000 salary and a rockin’ social life). She may not get an offer because people question her maturity/sanity.
The guy who mistakes the firm for a frat. This guy, often a former athlete, is the type of summer associate who prides himself on being on the inside. Unfortunately, no has told this guy that, unlike the cachet of being a member of Delta Sigma Whatever, no one at his current firm wears the firm pin with pride. No one skips work to take in 18 holes. There is no us versus them. This is just work. So put your head down and work. He may not get an offer because people question whether he is aware that he is not at an investment bank in the late 80’s.
The one-dimensional car salesman. This summer associate, usually male, uses every opportunity to sell himself to anyone who he encounters during the summer. He will use social functions, trips to the copy center and attorney development meetings as a venue to ingratiate himself and to argue his case. The message: he belongs at this firm! Young man, you have already gotten over the fence, so relax. He may not get an offer because people question his self-esteem.
The wet blanket. Please read this section carefully as it’s relevant to the majority of summer associates who do not fit in the prior categories. Many summer associates have never held professional jobs before. Therefore, they must conclude on their own what a “professional” looks and acts like at work. Since they have limited guidance, they often assume that a serious demeanor, in dress and attitude, is the safest bet. However, attorneys are people. Attorneys like bad television, bright colors, and pop music, and an occasion they laugh. You do not need to pretend that you are robot who eat and sleeps the law. You are most likely being disingenuous, and you are not letting others get to know the best of you. This summer associate may not get an offer because people question whether they can stand to work late nights with this dullard.
The bottom line is that you are best served by being yourself. You do not need to be brilliant, fabulous, or cool. You need to be a team player who is willing to jump in and give your assignments your best effort.
Other thoughts: be sure to pursue feedback on each assignment (a polite, brief email to the senior associate on the project will suffice if feedback is not given immediately after you conclude an assignment). Use your midsummer review as a chance to get a clear sense of how you are progressing. If you are not progressing well, ask for concrete feedback about how you can improve before your final review. If you are progressing well, do not slack.
At social events, do not get drunk (you have not yet earned that right, and no good can come from being a drunk summer associate). At these events, you should recall that everyone is not going to be polled and asked whether you should get an offer. As such, use these events to have fun and to decide if you would like to be coworkers with your hosts.
Finally, if you have hard questions — about your salary, insurance, disability accommodations, etc. — do not pose these questions to random attorneys at the firm. Please direct these questions to the recruitment team who will then send you in the right direction.
Biglaw repeatedly takes a beating. But the truth is that you have worked hard, and you are on the verge of getting training from some of the brightest legal minds in the United States. Take advantage of that enviable opportunity.
I wish you all the best.
Anonymous Recruitment Director is the head of recruitment for a leading international firm and has 20 years of law firm recruitment experience. Anonymous NYC Recruitment Director can be reached at NYCRecruitmentDirector@gmail.com (please note that job applications sent to this email address will be deleted!).