Ahh, summertime. A time of slow down and disconnect for most law professors. However, I must have an unusually close relationship with my students because I inevitably end up entertaining questions like this from Summer Associate students all Summer:
A partner is hitting on me! What should I do?
I have 2 memos due on Friday and another partner who has a reputation for being an offer killer just gave me an emergency project. What should I do?
I'm supposed to write a brief on informed consent, and I have no idea what that is. Help me Professor Simon!
These questions always take me back to my days as a Summer Associate at a big Denver firm where I saw numerous fellow Summers making blunder after blunder on their way to a no offer Summer. One Summer Associate blew off the end of the Summer shin dig at the big partner's Cherry Creek mansion to fly to San Diego to attend her boyfriend's firm's end of Summer party instead. Huh? Another Summer Associate feigned illness because his memo was due and he attended the Joe Jackson concert at Red Rocks the night before instead of finishing the assignment. Doh!
That is why today I offer Summer Associates all over the world this bit of advice:
1. First and foremost, you must do great work. This cannot be emphasized enough. Your offer for permanent employment starts and ends here. No matter how charming you are or how many asses you kiss, I am sorry to tell you that you will never receive an offer of full-time employment if your work is sub-par. The competition for these jobs is fierce, so you must fully understand the project, research the hell out of it (without spending too much of the client's money on Westlaw or Lexis), and present a beautifully written product. If you do not do this, you will not receive an offer.
2. Closely related to # 1 is the fact that, in order to do great work, you must understand the nature of the beast, and this is where most Summer associates fail. You must understand exactly what the partner is asking you to do. You have to ask questions, because most partners often assume that law students have much greater knowledge and experience than they actually have. They forget that you have had a total of 4 semesters of law school and may never ever have had a class on Securities Regulation, the actual assignment you are being asked to give an opinion on. It's up to you to figure it out.
3. Attend all Summer Associates social events that you are invited to. Do not let work interfere with these social commitments even if there is a looming deadline. Find a way to make it happen. Believe me, the partners are evaluating you as much on this level as they are on the work level. They are asking themselves: Is this a person who has the social skills to attract business and who can entertain clients? This is a skill that is so important because there are a lot of legal minds who can do the work. The greatest skill set is doing great work but also having a great personality so that clients will want you to do their work, and that is what partners are evaluating during these social outings.
4. You must get to know at least one influential partner, closely. When decision time comes in the board room, you will need someone to go to bat for you.
5. Don''t be a whiner. This is a job. If you haven't figured it out yet, the practice of law is difficult, let's face it. Part of the rigor of law school, the Summer Associate program, and the bar exam is to weed out those who do not handle stress well. Those who can manage stress well will reap great rewards.
These five tips will help all Summer Associates who follow them. But if you think you need someone to personally guide you through your Summer program — if you think you need more focused, customized, personalized help and feedback to get where you need to be to get the offer from the law firm you're visiting this Summer — well, luckily, that is what I do during my Summer. I love to help students during this transition period because my experience uniquely positions me to help you start doing many of the things you probably don't even know you should be doing.
If this is you, I invite you to have a look though all the experience I believe has uniquely prepared me in my role this Summer as your guide. If you're ready to make sure you're doing everything you can to get the offer you want, e-mail me or call me at (312) 321-6477. I only take a limited number of Summer Associates I think that I might be able to help, so let's see if we can partner to get you the offer.