How to Succeed as a Summer Associate—What You Need to Know

by Vault Law Editors | May 24, 2012

This week, an incredible panel of experts provided us with insider advice on how to succeed as a summer associate. Our panelists—Donna Gerson, a business etiquette expert, Wendy Siegel, Director of Recruitment and Marketing at NYU Law, and Charlotte Wager, Chief Talent Officer of Jenner & Block—answered some of the most common (and difficult) questions summer associates have.

For example, did you know that:

  • The most important question you should ask when meeting with a partner or associate about a new assignment is what the expected deliverable is. If the assigning partner is expecting a five-page memo and you produce a bulleted email, she won’t be pleased. At the same time, if an urgent research question has come up and you spend a week doing exhaustive research, that also won’t be appreciated.
     
  • At a law firm, when you’re asked for a “draft,” it means something completely different than what you might expect. If a partner asks for a draft, he wants something fully proofread and edited, in final format. The best way to think about this is that your best written work as a summer associate—no matter how good—will be a draft or starting point for the partner, who will edit it as he or she sees fit. Unless you are given specific orders to do so—such as in an emergency where an answer is needed within an hour—you should never send a rough, unedited version of your work product to a senior attorney.
     
  • In general, you should avoid checking your work-issued blackberry (and certainly your personal phone) at meetings and even at firm-sponsored social events.
     
  • If a firm has hired you as a summer associate, the partners and recruiting staff want you to succeed! They are investing in you because they think you would be a great addition to the firm. If something isn’t going well, it is essential to communicate your concerns with your mentor, supervisor or someone on the recruiting team as soon as possible.

If you didn’t have the chance to join us on Wednesday, you can listen to the full version of the panel online here: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/892414424. There are many more great answers to some of your most common questions. Be sure to check it out!

--Rachel Marx, Law Editor

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Filed Under: Law | Workplace Issues


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