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by Vault Law Editors | June 15, 2010

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What questions should today’s BigLaw summer associates be asking?

Stephen Harper—Kirkland & Ellis partner, Northwestern law professor, novelist—has some suggestions.

First, Harper finds it useful to split the summers into 2 camps: “The first group consists of those wanting good training, needing a decent salary to pay off their student loans, and planning to do something else when that debt is gone. A second group wants to make a career at a big firm; they think they’re in for the long haul.” The first group is properly concerned with mentoring, training and other opportunities to develop skills and otherwise improve as a lawyer.  The second group—the aspiring lifers—should, first, identify an equity partner who “has life they’d want.”  (If no such person can be identified, “that’s a big problem.”)

Assuming a partner role model can be found, the summer associate should figure out “[i]s he or she an oddity? Did the partner succeed under a BigLaw model that no longer exists?” And to make those determination, ask these questions:

1. Excluding laterals, how many new equity partners did the firm make this year?

2. How many years did it take them to get there?

3. What was the size of their original associate class?

4. What happened to everyone else?

Harper concludes: “If the chances of capturing the brass ring are about the same as winning the lottery, at least they know the ground rules. The answers will reveal the culture and working environment of the place.”

-posted by brian

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