Round-Up: How to Be a Great Summer Associate

By Mark Wilson, Esq. on April 30, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

As the weather gets warmer, law students can be sure of two things: final exams and summertime. For some students, "summertime" means relaxing on a beach, but many 2Ls will find themselves making adult amounts of cash as summer associates.

If they say their prayers and eat their vegetables, they might just leave the firm in August with a job offer following graduation. Then again, this is a prime opportunity for a royal screw-up. Here's a roundup of some of our best advice for being a great summer associates.

Be Nice to Support Staff

Legal secretaries, the IT guy, and even the janitor -- these are all people who help you get your job done behind the scenes. (Remember: "When you do things right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all.") They work hard, and just because they're not lawyers doesn't mean they're not deserving of your respect. (And yes, some companies ask support staff how potential hires treated them.)

Navigating After-Work Events

Optional? Not really. You should attend some amount of after-work events so you can see and be seen. Basically, you want to show that you have a fun side as well as a serious side, and that you are a fit for the firm in more ways than just how pretty your memos are. You do, however, need to make sure you dress appropriately and comport yourself appropriately -- i.e., don't get drunk, do something stupid, and lose that job offer.

Surviving the Business Lunch

Lawyers love two things: talking and lunch. A business lunch combines both of those things, and as a summer associate, you'll probably be expected to attend some number of lunchtime events. Our handy guide can help you navigate the dress code, the food code, and the booze code.

Just Be a Great Worker

In our "BigLaw 101" guide, we address how to be a great associate, but the advice applies equally to summer associates. If you want that vaunted offer, basically work hard, be nice, and show them that you would make a great employee and add value to the firm. They've already hired you on a contingency basis, so they must seem something promising. The job offer is yours to lose.

What to Wear

Even though you're not technically an associate yet, come to work every day looking the part. You'll need to figure out what the dress code is at your firm, which will vary depending on several factors. For men, "suit and tie" is the often default, but women have a lot of other options.

Not to belabor the point, but a summer associate position is like an extended job interview. Give it your best every day and convince (without actively convincing -- that's annoying) the firm that you really do belong there.

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