Work + Growth

How to Optimize Your Summer Associate Position

  • Soak up everything you can by attending presentations, gathering feedback on your work, and observing the traits of the organization’s most successful attorneys
  • Try to experience as many practice areas as possible (even if you think you know where you want to focus), as you might be surprised to find new areas that interest you
  • Networking is always important but is especially so during your summer. Make as many connections with others—both at your level and senior to you—as you can

Congratulations! You’ve aced your interviews and have landed a summer associate position.

You’re no doubt excited to get your first taste of what life will be like after graduation. Of course, you’re also probably not entirely sure what to expect. Being a summer associate will give you an idea of what you’ve been studying so hard for, while offering countless opportunities to network and learn. They key is to make sure to get as much as you can out of this career-informing experience.

Treat it Like a Job Interview

Throughout the entire course of your summer, keep in the forefront of your mind that your ultimate goal is to leave with a job offer. To that end, you should treat your position as an extended job interview, and act accordingly: Be professional, be enthusiastic, ask informed questions, and produce your best possible work. If volunteers are requested, volunteer. If you’re invited to an event, attend it. Do everything you can to make a positive impression on everyone from other summer associates to senior partners.

Be a Sponge

Soak up all the feedback you can from experienced colleagues, attend as many presentations as possible, and take advantage of everything you’ll be trained to do. Your time as a summer associate is the best opportunity you’ll ever have to become adept at the junior-level work you’ll have to master before moving on to anything more complex down the road. Obviously, you’re doing a lot of learning in law school, but the on-the-job education you’ll receive as a summer associate is invaluable. Ask questions, pay attention to other attorneys’ work, and use every available chance to learn.

Learn What You Like (and What You Don’t)

If you’re in a position to try as many practice areas as possible, do so—even if you’ve been convinced you want to work in M&A since you were in middle school. Your summer associate position will likely give you flexibility you won’t see again in your career, which means you have a great chance to figure out if your talents differ from what you thought they were.

If you’ve been assigned to a specific area of law, do your best to chat with attorneys who practice in other areas and can give you a sense of what their days are like. What practice areas are you most curious about?

If you’re crushed to realize the practice group you thought you wanted to focus on is nothing like you thought it would be, remember that figuring out what you don’t want to do is just as important to your career journey.

Observe Winning Strategies

Put your own spin on the old adage “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Pay attention to the associates who are highly regarded and have found success at the organization. What do colleagues say about them? Why are they held in such high regard? Where you can, embrace the practices that have helped them succeed. These individuals are also the kinds of people you want to build relationships with.

Make Connections

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Networking is crucial for lawyers. This will be the case throughout your career, but it’s especially important to embrace during your time as a summer associate. Seek to connect with those who can help guide your career and offer advice, as well as more junior attorneys with whom you can grow and advance. In addition to reaching out to colleagues during work hours, make an effort to attend as many offsite social events as you can. These are great opportunities to get to know your possible future colleagues on a more personal level.

No matter whether you spend your summer working in BigLaw, for the government, or at a boutique firm, your summer associate position will be what you make it. Remember to embrace the short time you have in this role and do your best to get as much as you can out of it. That way, whether or not you leave with an offer, you’ll have gained the kind of extremely valuable on-the-job training and connections that will likely prove valuable for years to come.