As an attorney, grueling hours and heavy workloads are the norm, and there is precious little time left for other activities. The onslaught of eager summer associates milling around the office for 8-10 weeks may seem like an unwelcome distraction for busy attorneys. However, it may be a prime opportunity to go the extra mile and show your leadership, mentoring, and management skills. Nearly every professional relationship will play a part in the success of your future practice, from the paralegal to the managing partner. By interacting and helping summer associates, you can impact your future success. Some may go on to become coworkers, opposing counsel or part of a major client’s in-house team.
Summer associate programs are intended to give law students a taste of what it is like to work at a real law firm. The program allows firms to evaluate the skills, work ethic, and cultural fit of the students for permanent positions after graduation from law school. Depending on your firm’s specific program for summer associates, there may be several opportunities to assist. A typical summer associate program might involve roles for hiring/recruiting committee members, supervising attorneys, mentors, and social programming.
Firm Committees – Many firms have committees for hiring, recruiting, or diversity. Joining one of these committees will show firm leadership that you are interested in driving the future talent of the organization, and are willing to invest your time and effort in the firm’s success. Joining one of these groups is also a great way to work with others in the firm that are outside your practice area.
Supervising Attorney – Summer associates are not yet admitted to the bar; therefore, their work is completed under the supervision of firm attorneys. While law school teaches students about the intellectual aspects of the law, summer associates have little knowledge about the applications in real-world scenarios. Acting as a supervising attorney can hone your management skills as you guide the students’ efforts and supervise their work.
Mentor – Mentoring is a valuable part of the summer associate’s experience and should go beyond giving instructions and feedback. A true mentor will guide, educate, and assist the student in several facets of law firm life, including culture, professionalism, skills, and relationships. Years into their careers, many attorneys still remember a mentor that truly made a difference in their lives.
Social Activities – Summer associate programs usually include a variety of social outings and gatherings to provide opportunities to mix and mingle with firm partners and associates. Helping summer associates network will sharpen your networking and business development skills as well.
By taking a proactive role in your firm’s summer associate program, you can gain valuable allies both below and above your position. You will differentiate yourself from associates who avoid added responsibilities. Partners will understand that you are a team player with initiative and a vested interest in the future success of the firm.