Your summer experience should be rewarding, full of learning and hard work, with a focus on building a network of colleagues and mentors. Here are some ways that you can maximize your summer experience through the lens of some familiar song titles.
- Count on Me by Bruno Mars. Summer associates are expected to be reliable and professional. To that end, you should complete assignments on time. When you are assigned to a project, deal, or case, you are a vital member of the team. If you miss a deadline, it creates a ripple effect of time management issues for the assigning attorney and the rest of the team, who are responsible for serving the needs of the client. If you know you will miss the deadline, it is important for you to alert the assigning attorney as soon as possible. Professionalism encompasses many things, and being respectful and courteous rise to the top. Whether you are working with another summer associate, support staff, or other attorneys, take a humble approach and recognize everyone’s contributions.
- Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen. Sometimes it is difficult to know how to best communicate with the assigning attorney. Should you use email, phone, team chat, text, or meet with them in person? Don’t assume. Ask the assigning attorney their preferred method of communication. You should not be intimidated to ask questions. Speak up when you don’t understand something. One piece of advice from one of the Bracewell associates is to take a notebook with you everywhere you go. When you receive an assignment or sit in on a call or meeting, take detailed notes. Being a reliable notetaker is a really simple way to earn invitations to more meetings and more opportunities to contribute substantively. You want to become the “go-to” summer associate.
- Blown Away by Carrie Underwood. Turn in A+ work. A draft does not mean you should not treat it as if it is the final product. It should be typo and error free. The supervising attorney is not your proofreader. Don’t rush through an assignment and hand in something sloppy. That is not to say that mistakes will not happen. When they do, own them. Learn from them. But mistakes sometimes happen when the summer associate is not clear on the assignment. This is a time of learning, and it is important to understand what the assigning attorney needs for you to do, in what format the deliverable should be, what the deadline is, and where to find resources (precedent in the document system and research tools). Ask for context about how your assignment fits into the bigger picture of the work being done for the client. Stay curious and take the initiative to ask questions to gain clarity. Take ownership of your assignment and do your best work.
- The Climb by Miley Cyrus. Your time as a summer associate will be a mix of work, training, networking, and social events. You will start to work on work/life integration—how to balance your professional and personal life. It is not easy and does not get any easier as you become an associate and a partner. It is a “climb.” Once you’ve made it to the top of a summit, the next mountain to climb appears. There will be times when you will need to decline a social invitation to finish a work assignment. You should find ways to manage stress through exercise, meditation, or a hobby. It is important to reward yourself when you ascend a summit. Applaud your accomplishments and celebrate success. Remember that rest and replenishment are key elements to maintaining balance in your life.
- Stronger by Kelly Clarkson. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger is not the mantra of most summer programs. The firm wants you to understand what it means to be an associate, and at the same time, there will be work assignment systems in place and reminders to give you feedback, as well as setting a pace to help you manage your workload. However, you may be tasked with a difficult assignment with long hours, or you may have to deal with a difficult partner or associate. You could also find yourself in the middle of handling a difficult situation with diplomacy. All these experiences will help you build resilience and grit that your future self will encounter at some point in your career. Embrace these challenges and learn from them.
- One Thing at a Time by Morgan Wallen. Practicing law can be a juggling act with multiple projects and deadlines from different people with varying work styles. You will need to learn that a “one thing at a time” overall approach will be frustrating to you. That said, time management experts say that multi-tasking is not more efficient. It is important to focus on the one project in front of you, knowing there will be interruptions. Be flexible and find work strategies that work best for you to do your best work.
- Against the Wind by Bob Seger. There will be times when the wind is at your back, and it’s smooth sailing. There will also be moments when you are pushing against the wind, and things seem more difficult. Set your sail, raise your anchor, and do your best with the circumstances. Clients have tough problems that they need their attorney and trusted advisor to help them solve.
- Cuts Like a Knife by Bryan Adams. Constructive feedback can sometimes “cut like a knife”—the redline of a draft, with the words, “THIS NEEDS WORK”; the meeting where the assigning attorney tells you that you misunderstood the assignment; or the call from your colleague about an emotional intelligence miss at a social event. It takes time and effort for someone to give you feedback, and sometimes, it isn’t easy for them to do. Instead of becoming deflated and defensive, be open to feedback. Ask open-ended questions and make sure you understand how to move forward and not make the mistake again.
- Pretending by Eric Clapton. It can be intimidating to walk into a law firm environment and not feel like an imposter. Don’t let imposter syndrome take over. You did a lot right to get into law school, and you did not get to where you are by faking everything you have ever done. Take stock of your resume, and remind yourself how much you have to offer the firm. Even partners have imposter syndrome. One suggestion is to start a “Why I’m Great” (WIG) inbox folder where you keep nice notes of appreciation from professors, attorneys, and clients throughout your career, and on days when you feel self-doubt creeping in, look at the folder and remember why you belong in the firm.
- Here for a Good Time by George Strait. The firm designs a summer program to incorporate great work assignments, exposure to clients, professional development, networking, and social events. “Here for a good time” should not mean your summer internship becomes a frat party. The lines between professional and personal can sometimes get blurred, particularly when alcohol is involved. Your words and actions should be focused on a summer-long interview. Stay professional and keep your good reputation intact.
- Going, Going, Gone by Luke Combs. A nine- to ten-week summer program may seem like a long time, but it goes by very quickly. Have a plan when you start with the firm and work that plan. Think about whom you should forge relationships with and whom you should ask to lunch or coffee. What practice areas do you want to gain exposure to? How do you want to assess whether the firm is the right career fit for you? How much client contact will you have as an associate? Is the culture collaborative or competitive? Is the work interesting and sophisticated? What do you want to gain from this experience? As famous author Stephen Covey said, “Begin with the end in mind.” What is important to you? What employer and which people will you trust with your professional and personal development?
- Take it to Limit by The Eagles. Challenge yourself this summer. Be curious. Be courageous. Step out of your comfort zone. This is your career, not the firm’s career. The firm is making a significant investment in you this summer, and you should take advantage of the opportunities afforded to you. Use this summer experience to push yourself to grow. Be engaged and participate. Make meaningful connections with your fellow summer associates and the attorneys in the firm. Some of these relationships will develop into life-long friendships.
Enjoy your summer. “I Gotta Feeling” (by the Black-eyed Peas) that you will be successful if you take this advice and put it to use.
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