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by Vault Law Editors | July 08, 2019

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With OCI just weeks away, many law students are on the hunt for the perfect summer program. Selecting a summer associate program is a major first step in your legal career—ideally, you will receive an offer at the end of your summer and launch your legal career with the firm as an associate. And the summer program offers a glimpse—albeit a somewhat rosier view filled with fun events and 5 p.m. departures—of what life is like at the firm, allowing you to make an informed choice about whether the firm fits your goals and also allowing the firm to understand if you are a match for its culture and work. 

Summer programs at different firms can often sound similar, and it can be difficult to whittle down the ones that are best for you. One of the best tools for finding out more about a firm—and the summer program in particular—is to talk to real associates who work there and went through the summer program.

But what if you don’t have any connections to associates at the firm? Or what if you are interested in learning more than one perspective? Luckily, Vault has done the work for you—nearly 20,000 associates participated in our Annual Associate Survey this year, and among the questions they answered were those about their firms’ summer programs (if they were summer associates there). 

Our editors reviewed all of the comments and compiled a selection of quotes that reflect the themes of the associate comments related to the summer program for each firm, which you can find within each firm’s profile. (Click on the “Associates Review” tab in each firm profile to read comments about the summer program and multiple other topics. If you are a student, you may have free access to these profiles through your school. Try logging in with your school email address, or talk to your career services office for more information.)

Below are Vault’s Top 5 Best Summer Asssociate Programs for 2020, along with an associate quote for each firm.

1. O’Melveny & Myers LLP: “I had the opportunity to handle real, substantive work on both billable and pro bono matters which were representative of the type of work I am doing now as a first year. O'Melveny's training programs (Mock Deal and Advocacy Institute) also gave me a bigger picture view of deal work and litigation which would otherwise be hard for a summer associate to get given the short time-frame.”

2. Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP: “Extensive training programs in multiple areas of law as well as practical training regarding how to navigate being an associate in a big law firm. All the assignments I received as a summer were substantive and the firm has an excellent system in place for assigning work and managing workloads for summer associates.”

3. Clifford Chance US LLP: “Attorneys do their best to involve summer associates in the deals they are working in. For all my assignments, the partners leading the transaction would sit me down and spend considerable time giving me an overview of what was going on and answer any questions I had.”

4. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP: “My summer at Akin consisted of substantive, client-facing assignments that required interactions with attorneys at high levels throughout the firm. Having the opportunity to work day to day with the partner in charge, department leads, and other well-established attorneys demonstrated the collaborative nature of the firm and its associates.”

5. Crowell & Moring LLP: “I received varied assignments from nearly every practice group. They were practical and not just busy work. I felt like I was a valued contributing member of the team.”

About The Best Summer Associate Program Rankings

Last month, Vault released its 2020 Best Summer Associate Program rankings. Vault asked junior associates (first years through third years) who participated in their current firm’s summer associate program to rate their experiences on a scale of 1 to 10 in six different areas. From those ratings, we ranked the best summer associate programs in three categories: Attorney Interactions (based on associates’ scores for meaningful interactions with firm attorneys); Career Development (giving equal weight to associates’ scores for substantive assignments, training and mentoring, and effective preparation for life as an associate); and Social Experiences (giving equal weight to associates’ scores for the quality of events and satisfaction with firm-sponsored social opportunities and social interactions). The Overall Best Summer Associate Program ranking reflects the average of all six individual ratings (attorney interactions, substantive assignments, training & mentoring, preparation for associate life, quality of events, and satisfaction with firm-sponsored social opportunities and social interactions).

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