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Sidley Austin LLP

After surviving the 2L interview season and deciding where you will spend your summer, you are now able to enjoy a well-earned break from thinking about summer employment. Yet even as you turn your focus back to classes, journals, and student groups, law firms are getting ready for your arrival! Firm lawyers and legal recruiting teams spend hours between the end of the interview season and the start of the summer program in meetings—planning orientation, social events, and training programs. This is all to ensure that a thoughtful and well-executed program is in place for you to have a great experience. Here are our tips for making the most of what is prepared for you:

Be responsive. This is crucial to your success as a summer associate. It is never too early to establish good habits and make a positive impression. In the months leading up to the start of the summer program, you will receive multiple emails from the legal recruiting team. Your replies will yield the information we need to prepare for your arrival. Accordingly, respond to those inquiries before their deadlines. Once you arrive as a summer associate, you should acknowledge receipt of and respond to lawyer emails and phone calls as promptly as possible. If you are going to be unavailable for a period of time, let the lawyers with whom you work know in advance.

Show up. It sounds simple, but showing up means much more than being physically present. When you arrive on your first day, strive to participate in the day’s events with a positive attitude. You will meet many new people from the moment you arrive, so you should anticipate and be open to new experiences. While you won’t be able to attend every event, do avail yourself of as much as your schedule allows. This will give you the opportunity to get to know your fellow summer associates and lawyers more informally, outside the office. Associates and partners often tell us that some of their closest friends today were former fellow summer associates. Look around and reach out to others to make the experience an enduring one. 

Unlock your resources. While you may initially find maneuvering around the firm to be daunting, there are many people who are more than willing to help. Legal secretaries can answer questions about submitting expenses, ordering supplies, and how to use the firm’s document management system. In addition, summer associates are typically paired with junior associates who were in your shoes not that long ago. They can serve as informal mentors, sharing what they wish they knew when they were summer associates. They can also answer questions about the work they do and how it is assigned, and introduce you to more senior lawyers. You may also work with a more senior lawyer who will oversee your projects during the summer and ensure you have exposure to the right mix of matters, lawyers, and practice groups. Be proactive and set up weekly meetings to provide updates on your projects and get feedback. All of these people can enhance your summer experience, so be sure to harness their expertise to make the most of your time. And remember, your firm’s legal recruiting team is there to support you throughout your summer, so do not be shy about seeking them out. 

Network. Networking effectively is a large part of succeeding in a summer program. Take advantage of every opportunity you can to enhance your skills. Participate in trainings and attend networking and other summer program events. In addition, try to get more comfortable doing outreach to individual lawyers. Seek out alumni from your law school and lawyers who work in practice areas of interest to you, and connect with the recruiters who recruited you during the interview process so you can share your experiences. 

Tackle Projects Professionally. Your firm will likely provide tips on being a successful summer associate—heed all of that advice and put it into action! Be proactive in setting up the initial project meeting with the assigning lawyer—don’t wait for them to set it up. You want your assigning lawyers to feel confident that you understand the assignment and that you have the information you need to get it done. Take notes during meetings with assigning lawyers, and once you think you have a good grasp of the parameters of an assignment, summarize it in your own words to confirm you understand. Repeating back what you heard is important because it gives the assigning lawyer the opportunity to listen and digest what they just told you. They may then say, “Yes, move forward!” or realize what they told you is not clear, or that they want you to head down a different path. Get clear deadlines (and respect them) and raise questions or concerns before it is too late to change course. Follow through with a cohesive work product and be confident when you report your findings, even if you can’t find anything. As you work on projects over the summer, provide the lawyers with regular updates on your progress instead of waiting for them to follow up with you.

Take Time for Self Care. No matter which firm you choose, you will work hard during your summer to earn an associate offer. Simultaneously, we understand that you will also be juggling summer program events and other commitments. We want to give you the tools to manage competing priorities, find balance, and succeed long-term. That means sometimes saying no to additional commitments and making sure you are getting enough sleep, exercise, and healthy food. Make your well-being a priority.

We wish you the best of luck in having a great experience!