Time to pack away those casebooks and pull out your business best—summer associate programs are about to begin. You’ve heard all of the law firm hype, and now it’s time to see it first-hand. But this isn’t just time to sit back, watch BigLaw life and sip way too many cocktails with your fellow summers each night. Your summer associateship is a multiple-week-long job interview, and in this current job market, you’ve got to make a good impression.
Sometimes a good impression rests in the little things—common sense behavior that can easily be forgotten in the excitement and nerves of starting a new job. As you forge forward into your summer associateship, don’t forget these five tips:
1.Pen and Paper.
It’s as simple as opening your desk drawer and pulling out some office supplies. Never go to any meeting without bringing a pen and paper (unless you're bringing a netbook, tablet or laptop to take notes), especially a meeting at which you’ll be receiving an assignment. It doesn’t matter if that meeting is with a first-year associate or the most senior partner at the firm—you’ll be receiving a lot of new information, requests, questions and instructions during those meetings. You’ll either look unprepared or like you don’t care enough if you don’t write anything down.
Questions are good—they not only show that you are engaged, interested and listening but they help you fully understand the assignment, what is expected of you and the nuances of the case. The better your understanding, the better you’ll be able to tackle the assignment. Don’t worry about asking too many questions—it’s better to find out as much as you can while you have the assigning attorney in front of you (it's not always easy to get a block of time with certain attorneys).
Nothing says unprofessional more than missing deadlines. You may see yourself as just a law student intern, but the firm is paying you top-dollar to turn around top-notch work. If that means staying an extra hour or two to finish a brief or passing up a Starbucks run with fellow summers to wrap up some research, then do it.
There is no excuse for handing in work with misspelled words and grammatical errors. Sloppy work will reflect laziness and a lack of attention to detail: two behaviors that are not welcome in the law firm world.
5.Pro bono is work.
Don’t make the mistake of blowing off pro bono assignments as not being “real” work. Not only is pro bono work important to many law firms, but it is also an opportunity for you to take on real responsibility. You should put 100 percent of your effort into every assignment you take on, regardless of whether the client is paying or not and whether or not an associate or partner is overseeing you. Use pro bono assignments as opportunities to take on more responsibility and show the firm your value not as excuses to slack.
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