Above the Law

While a full-time job at a large law firm is not for everyone, a summer at one is highly recommended. Even if you are not sure if you have an interest in practicing at a large firm after the summer, a summer at one is a great experience and you will be paid around $35,000 for the summer. You should be careful though, because many who have summered at large corporate firms and swore that it was just for the summer, often must have drank the Kool-Aid and went back after graduation. If you have decided to work for a top law firm during the summer here are a few things to consider.

1. You will likely get a job offer but do not take it for granted. Most large firms extend offers to 100% of the summer class but the poor economy has changed this. While you will likely get an offer you should not assume that you will get one and act accordingly. This does not mean that you should stress out and worry. Just do a good job and you should be fine.

2. Do not get drunk at firm events. This sounds obvious but many students drink and act silly at firm functions. There is a summer associate legend that worked at a firm (actually the firm that I summered at) one summer and she jumped into the Hudson River while on a boat cruise. Even though this happened years ago, people still talk about it. Do not let this be you.

3. Bring a pen and paper to every meeting. You would be shocked at how many people do not do this and it looks really bad.

4. Do a bit of research about an assignment before you meet with the lawyer. Generally the staffing person will at least tell you the company name and you can Google the company and perhaps bring a print out of some documents to your first meeting to show you took initiative. During my summer, I printed out one Internet article about a company prior to meeting with the lawyer and she noted this as a very positive element on my review. As a summer associate it does not take much to please.

5. Communicate with lawyers and tell them when you have too much on your plate. While the law firm wants you to enjoy yourself, they also want you to do work. You are ALWAYS better served though communicating that you have too much on your plate rather than just accepting work and either not finishing it or not finishing it well. If you communicate that you are too busy and explain why, the worst thing that will happen is that they will find someone else. Remember that every lawyer you work with thinks that you are only doing work for them so do not assume they know about your other assignments.

6. You will quickly see that you will be wined and dined during your summer. This does not mean though that you have encountered a bonanza. Do not order the most expensive things on the menu or alcohol during your lunches. Order as if you or your parents were paying for the meal. I remember one summer associate that ordered around 7 diet cokes during lunch (at $4 each) and lawyers commented to me on how they thought that was inappropriate.

7. Check in regularly with lawyers regarding the status of the assignments you are given. The lawyers you are working with will greatly appreciate if you regularly update them with status of the assignments they have given you. Do not let them think that the work they have given you has fallen into an abyss. A simple call or email will go a long way. Also, let the lawyer make the decision if you stay late. I would often ask a lawyer when they needed the work product and offered to “stay late” if he/she needed it. Nine times out of ten they would indicate that sometime in the future was fine and that staying late was not necessary.

8. Let your secretary know where you are if you leave. There is nothing worse than people looking for you and no one can tell a partner or senior lawyer where you are.

9. Treat your secretary with respect. They have lots of power in firms and can make your life miserable if you treat them badly. Moreover a good working relationship with someone that you will see every day just makes sense.

10. Enjoy your summer! The summer perks are amazing and you should make sure that you are enjoying the lunches, the theater, the scavenger hunts, the bowling, the concerts, the parties and more.

Ian E. Scott is a Harvard Law School graduate, a lawyer, and the author of Law School Lowdown: Secrets of Success from the Application Process to Landing Your First Job, a comprehensive law school guide that contains important tips regarding law school admission and finding a job. Ian worked as a corporate litigator in the law firm Cleary Gottlieb and currently runs his own law firm Scott Legal Services, P.C. specializing in Immigration Law & New Business set-up. He is also author of the blog Law School Success Tips and has been published/featured by Forbes, the New York State Bar Association, Bloomberg, Barron’s, LexisNexis, Lawyerist, The Student Appeal Journal and other journals.