How to Lay the Foundation for Future Success as an Associate During Your Summer

May 9, 2019

by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP 

Your 2L summer experience is the perfect time to lay the foundation for your future success as an associate. We sat down with two of our junior dispute resolution associates—Paige von Mehren, Harvard, and Pedro Ramirez, Yale—to find out what their tips are for doing so. Here is what they had to say:

1. Do your research.

Prior to the beginning of your summer, identify the people and teams that you want to get to know better during your summer. Utilize meet-and-greet events, speak with professors and professionals in the legal industry, and ask others who summered at your law firm of interest for insight. Also, remember that your OCI interviews are research opportunities and that you should keep in mind who you’d like to speak with if you are offered follow-up interviews so that you can continue to educate yourself and get a taste for who the key players are in your interest areas.

That being said, have peripheral vision when you start as a summer associate. Look around, take it all in, and be open to trying new things. You may find that your preconceived interests are actually not the practices you enjoy most, so take advantage of opportunities to try different practice groups out!

2. Build relationships and make an impression.

Your summer is a unique opportunity in your career for capitalizing on events and a more flexible work schedule to get to know your colleagues across all levels of seniority. Though partners and associates might be busy, be bold and persistent about approaching them because they want to get to know you! And the more you make yourself known, the more top-of-mind you’ll be when it comes time to be staffed on matters as an associate.

It’s also important to get to know associates that are closer in seniority to you, as you’ll be spending a large amount of time with them on projects, and they’re a great resource for help if you need clarification on an assignment.

Don’t feel shy about asking a partner or associate out to lunch. The lunch program—which is a staple in all BigLaw firm summer programs—is in place for a reason, and that reason is for you to get to know your future colleagues and learn as much as possible about the work we do at the firm.

Finally, bond with your fellow summer associates—and do it quickly! They’ll be your support system during your first year. Plus, if your firm offers summer secondments—as Freshfields does—you’ll want to have your relationships formed before you and others leave for your placements.

3. When in doubt, ask!

Don’t feel shy about requesting follow-up instruction, templates, or precedents when you’re tasked with an assignment. Every attorney has been in your shoes and knows your summer is most likely the first time you will have been asked to complete assignments like the ones you’ll be tasked with. Asking for clarification is better than “taking a stab” at a project and delivering work product that misses the mark. That being said, aim to ask for clarification before you begin an assignment, or try to gather your follow-up questions and ask them in one go if you can—it will help everyone work more effectively.

If there is still a question you have that you feel “silly” asking a superior, reach out to your associate mentor! They are a great resource, and they are not involved in evaluating you at the end of your summer.

4. Think ahead.

Shortly after you end your summer and accept your offer to join as an associate, you’ll have the opportunity to broadly declare your area of specialty (for Freshfields it would be ‘global transactions’ or ‘dispute resolution’). For this reason, one of your summer focuses should be to develop a sense of the general practice area you will want to work in as an associate. A good way to do this is by seeking out a diverse set of assignments to make sure that you are getting a taste of all that the firm has to offer. Even if there is one practice area you strongly believe would not be of interest to you, it is a good idea to consider asking for a minor and discrete assignment as an educational opportunity.

5. Manage your time – it goes by quickly!

With networking opportunities, assignments, and formal summer requirements (like training), there is no shortage of competing demands on your time during your summer. If you feel overwhelmed and like your time is being too disproportionately distributed, let your summer coordinator know! It is important to balance your workload with the time to form relationships with your colleagues. It is also important to be honest about what your work capacity is—and what you want to see more or less of—with your summer work allocation team. Ultimately, your law firm will want you to have the best experience you can have—so don’t be afraid to take part in building it!

6. Get strategic.

Two things you may not have considered for your summer experience are participating in pro bono projects and in a secondment. While both certainly are fun and informative, they are also opportunities to strategically tailor your summer exposure and invest in networking that will help you as an associate. Pro bono assignments are an excellent way to take on responsibility you wouldn’t get elsewhere and will help you meet and collaborate with colleagues that work outside of your interest area. Secondments are valuable in building relationships across your firm’s global network which you can leverage in the future, and they help you gain an understanding of how your international colleagues operate.

In all, your 2L summer is an exciting time for you to take advantage of and learn from as many experiences as you can. By keeping our tips in mind, you’ll be on the right track for success as an associate. Good luck, and have fun! 

This is a sponsored blog post by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP. To view the firm's complete profile, click here.

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