April 14, 2004
Firm Attorneys Offer Tips for Summer Associates
Most Virginia law students who work for a firm during the summer before
their second year do secure employment there after graduation, but
students heard additional tips about how to make the most of their
experience from a panel of firm representatives and attorneys April
12 at an event hosted by Polly Lawson, Associate Director for Career
Services Counseling and Programs.
As Ali Gaidies, a recruiting administrator at the 40-lawyer firm of
Christian & Barton told the audience, “if it’s a good
fit, you will get an offer.”
The panel was the second in a series; the first, on April 5, included
Mona Touma ’99 of Sharman & Sterling in New York; and in
Washington, D.C., Matt Wolf ’94 of Howrey Simon Arnold & White,
Jonathan Fritts of Morgan Lewis & Bockius, Evan Alexander of Hale & Dorr;
and Ted Killory of Wilmer Cutler & Pickering.
Participate in Social Events and Show Interest in Working
at the Firm
Panelists agreed that social events, which usually number one or two
per week, are important for the firm’s attorneys to get to know
summer associates, and for associates to discover if the firm is the
right fit for them.
“They would not want you to be too busy to interact with the
attorneys because that’s pretty important,” said Cristina
Coronado, an associate with Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe in New
York. “It’s part of the program.”
Social events are mostly “to see how you interact with other
people,” said Leanne Murphy, a recruiting manager at Troutman
Sanders in Richmond. “If you continually miss social events during
the summer, a lot of attorneys will interpret that as [disinterest
in the firm].”
The panelists’ firms typically had one event on weekends during
the summer. Asked about what happens if summer associates have prior
plans, Gaidies responded that “the best way to handle it if you’re
worried about conflicts is to state [you have prior plans] from the
outset.” Send an e-mail to the recruiting coordinator letting
them know when you have a wedding to attend, for example.
With social events, “the idea is for everybody to get to know
each other,” she explained, but associates shouldn’t feel
pressure. On the other hand, “I would urge you not to hang back
in the corner with a spouse,” for example.
Angle for the Work You Want, But Don’t Complain
Summer associates should expect a mix of work they are interested
in as well as helping with projects that need to be done. Lacking class
experience in a subject usually won’t exclude you from related
assignments. “If you’re not getting the work you want,
talk to somebody, especially in the recruiting department,” Murphy
Troutman Sanders has a database from which summer associates may choose
assignments, including assignments originating from other offices;
if you find that another office location is more suitable to your interests,
you may be able to transfer there if given an offer.
One student working during the height of the market boom one summer
consistently complained he was being used as cheap labor, Murphy said,
but she explained to the audience that because billing rates for young
associates are lower, “you do not make any money for the firm
until your fifth or sixth year…you’re not that cheap.”
Gaidies explained that at her firm, summers are assigned a mentor,
who will field general questions, and a reader, who gives feedback
on written work.
“This is kind of a mock year for you to be an associate,” she
said. “A lot of the work that comes through is based on need
. . . I would certainly discourage complaining about the nature of
the work you get.”
Coronado encouraged students to “try to get the work you actually
think would be a good fit.”
When in Doubt, Ask
Summer associates should anticipate questions they might have about
a given assignment while they have the partner’s attention, Gaidies
said. “It’s important to consolidate as much as possible.”
But summers should not hesitate to ask questions, because they need
guidance; it’s a good idea to ask the partner you’re working
with whether they prefer to communicate by email, voicemail, or in
person, in case further questions arise.
“They would rather take the 20 to 30 minutes with you,” Murphy
added, than have you waste two days trying to figure something out.
Be Nice to All Staff
Although the recruiting committee at Troutman Sanders decides whether
to offer students full-time jobs, recruiters hear from associates,
partners, secretaries, and other staff about how a given associate
is doing. Being friendly is important, but so is being genuine.
“Be really honest about who you are and what you can bring to
the firm,” Murphy suggested.
With Work, Quality Is Better Than Quantity
Summers are ultimately judged by the quality of their work. “They
just expect that what you turn in is well-done and accurate,” Coronado
Murphy pointed out that when a partner asks for a rough draft, he
doesn’t really mean a rough draft. “Definitely before you
turn in something…[make sure] there are not some huge, glaring
If it becomes apparent that an assignment will take longer than the
partner or recruiting coordinator expects, Gaidies said it’s
important to let them know, because summer associates are also judged
on their time-management skills.
“If you’ve got too much, we’ll shift things,” Gaidies
said. “You’re never going to get slammed [with assignments].” Summer
associates generally work an average 8 hours, excluding lunch.
Pay Attention to Criticism and Make Improvements
Summer associates at Orrick—where students work with coordinators
from transactions and litigation departments, in addition to their
assigned partner—undergo a mid-summer review, which offers them
the chance to correct any perceived problems.
Gaidies said her firm’s recruiters also will let summer associates
know when they need to improve as well. “If you tend to go off
the path, we’ll get you back on.”
Take Advantage of Firm Training and Pro Bono Opportunities
Many firms offer summer associates a deposition workshop, which at
Christian & Barton includes videotaping a mock deposition, complete
with a court reporter. Her office also encourages summer associates
to go to depositions and hearings, and asks other attorneys to publicize
Firms also offer formal and informal pro bono opportunities. At Orrick,
summers are strongly encouraged to take on an asylum case and also
other pro bono cases, Coronado said, and time spent on the cases counts
toward billable hours. Students can choose to work on their asylum
cases after they return to school, if they live near the firm. Orrick
also runs a program that allows summer associates opportunities to
work on uncontested divorce cases.
Troutman Sanders lists pro bono opportunities in its database, and
each summer the firm hosts a public service event just for summer associates
and a few other attorneys.
Pro bono opportunities at Christian & Barton are communicated
more informally, Gaidies said, with partners frequently asking summer
associates to help with their projects.
Don’t Drop the Ball
When asked what students have done to lose their chance for a permanent
offer, Murphy warned students to avoid imitating the actions of one
Troutman Sanders summer associate who was spotted by the hiring partner
during work hours wandering the streets tossing a baseball around.
• Reported by M. Wood