Legal Departments: Getting Ready for Summer Associates

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on May 13, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Recently we covered the legal issues involving summer interns working gratis. Now we can address a meatier concern: summer associates.

Much ink and gossip is spilled and spent (not necessarily in that order, mind you) over how to handle summer associate culture. But what about summer associates in an in-house setting?

More of the Same, and Yet ... Not

Summer associates will spend the first couple of weeks and months basking in the glow of their new-found position as an in-house attorney working under the wing of a boss who is charged with guiding in the mystical ways of the single-client attorney. In many ways, the experience at a legal department is going to be quite a bit different than one would experience at a firm. At a firm, it's difficult to shake the "they're all out to get me" paranoia.

But when the client is is business you come to work for every day, at least the pain and stress is more equally shared among the legal team.But this also means that the teams must work well together -- even better than if the setting was at a firm.

Filtering of the Riff-Raff

Less School, More Personality: Pay less attention to where the prospective went to school and more attention to their hobbies, extracurricular activities, and the quality of initial interviews. BigLaw firms have a sterling upper-crust image to preserve. Companies are (or should be) more concerned about basing critical business decisions on a good legal team. Look for good chemistry.

Avoid Bootlickers: Since there is only a single client and the team must be cohesive, it pays for in-house managers to select summer associates who work well with others. There are those who work well with others because they have natural charisma, and then there are those who seemingly work well because their natural ability to bootlick. Unfortunately, even lawyers are vulnerable to flattery and we must do everything we can to resist the brown-noser's charm.

Avoid Narcissists: Inevitably, you will be presented with narcissistic applicants. Nothing kills a team better than a narcissist who thinks he's better than everyone else. About the only place where a narcissist can do well in a team is when he's at the top. And since your summer associates are not applying to that job, you'd better identify these people and write them off the list immediately.

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