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by Vault Law Editors | July 10, 2024


The summer associate program you are part of is your opportunity to make a positive impression on your employer while assessing whether this firm is a good career fit. Here are our editors' tips for making the most of the summer associate experience.

Build relationships.

This is a chance to find out where you fit both within a firm's formal structure and its culture, and it is also a moment where career-long relationships can begin, particularly with other members of your summer class. Take this opportunity to bond with as many attorneys as possible, both fellow summers and firm associates (and partners too!).

Befriend the staff.

The support staff at any law firm can make your life a lot easier. They understand how things work and can help you grasp the logistics of your role at the firm. Staff are also important people to network with, as they have established relationships with seniors and decisionmakers at the firm.

Be enthusiastic.

It's likely that at some point during your summer, you'll receive an assignment you find less than interesting. Don't let that show. Remain positive and focused as you bring your attention to each assignment you receive this summer. Clients expect nothing less of their attorneys, and senior attorneys at law firms require it of the juniors they rely on, summers included.

Ask questions.

It's also a near certainty that you will, at some point, receive an assignment you do not initially understand. This is a vital moment to learn how to ask follow-up questions until you are clear on what you need to do. Now and later, always be certain you have a concrete understanding of what is expected of you in terms of timing and deliverables.

Submit only your very best work.

Understand one thing: there is no such thing as a first draft anymore. That is not to say you shouldn't put work through multiple iterations, but rather to make absolutely clear that nothing less than your best, final product should ever be submitted to anyone during this summer program. Proofread as many times as necessary to ensure that every submitted product is a final draft.

Practice time management.

Partners will always be more focused on client deadlines than they will on work distribution amongst their associates. You must clearly communicate with your assigning partners if your workload ever becomes too heavy, so they aren't expecting you to contribute work you cannot do. Some programs have assignment coordinators to streamline this process, but no matter what it's a good idea to learn how to communicate with partners directly.

Be responsive.

It may sometimes feel annoying, but get in the habit of being the last to reply to every email, even if it's just acknowledging receipt. If a deadline was communicated, clearly communicate either acceptance or an explanation of why the deadline is not realistic. Never leave anything hanging and no one will ever misunderstand your silence.