The Role of Summer Coordinators at Gibson Dunn
1. Tell us a bit about your experience as a Summer Associate and why you ultimately chose Gibson Dunn.
Mike Szczurek: I found my summer experience to be really enjoyable. On the substantive side, I got to work on real cases (at that time I had machinations of being a litigator) in the trenches with highly qualified and decorated colleagues and for me, having gone straight through to law school from undergrad and having only held manual labor-based jobs to that point in my life, I experienced a combination of relief and excitement to find that the actual practice of law was something that I found rewarding and could see myself doing long-term. On the social side, I would say that at OCI I largely picked Gibson for my 2L summer because of the people and how much I liked being around them; so, the summer program was really just confirming and stress testing the snap judgments I made at OCI. I was really pleasantly surprised both at the sheer volume of opportunities and the different contexts I was offered to interact with who would become my colleagues at Gibson, irrespective of their area of practice or seniority, and also at the consistency of quality among the people at the firm at large. Ultimately, it was the opportunity to continue to work with those same people that resulted in my choosing Gibson after my summer.
2. At Gibson Dunn one to four associates in each of our offices will take on the role as a Summer Coordinators for the duration of the summer program, which is a different feature than other firms. What role does a Summer Coordinator play in the Summer Program?
Duncan Taylor: I think of the summer coordinator almost like a guide. They’re really focused on making sure that summer associates get a great experience, get a chance to meet as many people as possible, and get to try the types of work that they’re interested in. Summer coordinators help plan, and enliven, the many summer social events. They help find, and dish out, assignments—and they try their best to accommodate any interests that summers have. And they are an invaluable source of guidance and mentorship! My own summer coordinator, Tiaunia Henry, is still one of my close contacts at the firm nearly 10 years later. Across the firm, the summer coordinators are some of the most fun-loving and engaging attorneys we have, so they do a great job of welcoming summers and helping them find their footing.
3. How has being a former Summer Coordinator influenced new roles you have taken on?
Molly Senger: Being a summer coordinator was a fantastic experience for many different reasons. First, it was a great opportunity to get to know tons of people at the Firm – both the summer associates themselves, but also the full-time attorneys who participated actively in the program. Second, it confirmed that I love the recruiting and hiring process. It is really invigorating to meet young law students who are excited about beginning their careers. It left me wanting to be involved with recruiting in future years, and I’ve continued to do so – first by doing on-campus interviewing for many years and now as one of the Hiring Partners in charge of hiring for the D.C. office. Third, being a summer coordinator teaches you a lot about people management, which is invaluable as you continue your career at a law firm. It teaches you the importance of aligning assignments with people’s interests; how to give good, constructive feedback; and how to teach more junior attorneys to be more successful lawyers. All of which are things I continue to try to do as a partner.
4. Can you share a highlight or two from when you served as a Summer Coordinator? What was your favorite event during that summer?
Molly Senger: When I was a summer coordinator, we did an annual trip to Wintergreen Resort. It was an incredibly fun bonding experience for all of the summer associates and their coordinators. There may even still be photographic evidence of me belting out Backstreet Boys at late night karaoke …
Duncan Taylor: Sadly my summer was all virtual due to COVID, but we still had a great time. Two things stand out—Melanie Neary and I went around to drop off laptops to all of our summers in the Bay Area, so it was great to get to see them (from a social distance!) before our summer started. Second, we had a morning workout with a Instagram trainer named Arnie Abs—and it was hilarious watching everyone struuugggle at 8 am trying to work out before work.
Mike Szczurek: My favorite moment and event from being a Summer Coordinator happen to be the same thing. We took a trip to Catalina Island when I was a summer coordinator which involved a number of different activities and events. The trip itself was just a terrific way to get to know the entire summer class socially and was certainly my favorite event of the summer—but what really stands out is watching two of the contingent of summers who went on a kayaking trip early the second morning support (via physically carrying them) one of the lawyers who joined them on the trip. The image of one of my colleagues and good friends coming around the edge of the cliff face and into view of those of us who were waiting on the beach while being carried over the shoulder of two of my summers—all three of whom were laughing—will forever be burned into my memory.
5. What advice do you have for law students who are choosing between law firms for their next summer?
Molly Senger: Go with your gut. If there is a place where the people seem like people you’d have fun spending time with, you’ve found your spot! Also, try to get a sense from junior associates about what they are doing on a daily basis. Work for junior associates can vary widely at different firms, and it can help to drill down to make sure you understand exactly what you’ll be doing wherever you end up.
Duncan Taylor: The best advice I can give is to find a firm where you can try the things you might be interested, and where you find a welcoming, friendly environment. I think GDC does a great job of offering both! But ultimately, trust your gut if you find a place that feels right.
Mike Szczurek: I think the best advice I can give is to take some time to decide what is important to you and do research and really focus your OCI and callback experience with firms to attempt to make a decision that reflects those values and goals. I candidly did not do this when I was interviewing at OCI in 2007. The legal market was on a really solid streak of six or seven years of consecutive excellent results and growth and the recruiting market was one big competition for who could offer the most lavish perks or benefits to potential associates. I could not make heads or tails of distinguishing firms on that basis, so I just picked the firm where I liked the people best. Fortunately for me, I lucked into having picked the firm I would have picked if I really sat down and thought about what mattered to me, which was job security and insultation from market instability. I could have—and really should have—researched how the firms I was talking to treated associates in the last downturn, given what was important to me, but it did not occur to me until 2008 (after my summer and while I was a 3L), as the global markets were melting down and my classmates were being furloughed or losing jobs before they started, just how important that type of job security was to me. So my advice is to not be like me and rely on good fortune and instead to make a concerted effort to determine which firms are offering what is important to you.
6. What are you looking forward to most about the 2023 Gibson Dunn Summer Program?
Molly Senger: In terms of events, I am very excited for our summer concert – a great 2000’s tribute band called Go Fetch! (Though I feel a little old that there are already 2000’s tribute bands).
Duncan Taylor: Karaoke. It’s not officially planned, but I’m confident we will find a night to drag as many summer associates into a karaoke room as possible. Some of the singing will be good, a lot of it will be…less good…but it will absolutely be fun!
Mike Szczurek: I think I look forward to the same thing every year, which is welcoming a new group of bright new minds to the firm. I feel like the phrase “like minded” gives a sense that we all think the same here, which is decidedly not true—but I think our hiring process and our summer program generally does an excellent job at attracting, recruiting, and ultimately retaining what I would call “consistently minded” people. We do not all have the same opinions on things, but our value based recruiting consistently produces compatible colleagues and friends out of a diverse pool of opinions and views and seeing that come together is always my favorite part of the summer.