Firm Expectations for Summer Associates

February 27, 2012

Monice Kaczorowski, Director of Libraries at Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP, recently spoke with law students about what they can do to insure that they are successful as summer associates.

Your life, during your eight to ten weeks as a Summer Associate, will be about meeting deadlines; producing concise, well-reasoned and well-written work product; and interacting professionally with clients, staff, and colleagues. Starting from your first assignment, you are expected to be a proficient researcher in primary and secondary authority. You are also expected to be able to understand and identify the legal issues presented to you – and to research them in an efficient, cost-effective manner utilizing all of the available resources, whether human, print, or electronic. Because research time is money, you need to make sure you spend it cost effectively.

The summer track is a job interview, and Summer Associates are often anxious to get started immediately on their research projects in order to showcase their skills and impress the partners. As a result, they sometimes forget to listen to what is actually being asked of them. Do not be afraid to ask questions, and do not pretend to understand assignments if you need clarification. You do not yet know much about the practice of law, and the firm does not expect you to have all the answers. Summers are a learning experience for everyone involved. Remember that recruiting professionals look for Summer Associates to have good communication skills.
Here is the checklist for that first assignment. Before you start researching, stop and consider each of the following questions:

  • Clarify: Before you start any research project, be clear what you are actually being tasked with. Ask questions and get buzz words.
  • Scope: Is it a state or federal issue?
  • Budget: What can you spend in terms of both time and money?
  • Due date: When does the client expect an answer? That determines when the assigning partner needs your analysis.
  • Final format: Do you need to write a brief or a memo? Is it expected in paper or electronic format? (Never turn in a project unless it is in final format!)

Summer Associates should also ask the assigning attorney for resource recommendations. They may have a favorite treatise, statute, or digest where the answer can be found quickly and easily, saving you lots of time. And if you missed that resource, they may wonder what else you missed. Do not embarrass yourself. You want to make a good impression with the first project and with every other assignment you complete.

Finally, recap everything you were told by the assigning attorney in order to make sure that you on the same page. And if after thinking about the project you have additional questions, ask for a follow-up meeting. Or reach out to another lawyer on the team. Remember that everyone expects you to ask questions and that no question is stupid.

For more of Monice Kaczorowksi’s advice, listen to the recording of her entire 30-minute webinar. Law students may also register for the upcoming webinar on February 28 with Kimberly Serna, Texas Region Library Services Manager for Jones Day.