Understanding what you did well and did not do well during your summer associate experience is critical to the development of your legal skills. And with the end of summer programs just a few weeks away, taking the initiative to ask for feedback will demonstrate your commitment to gaining that understanding and improving your work performance.
When asking for feedback, it is important that you are prepared to ask for—and receive—constructive criticism on areas in which you may need to improve. To make the most of the opportunity, check out the following tips on how to successfully tackle the process.
1. Determine the questions to ask.
In addition to a summary of your summer work assignments and accomplishments to share if necessary, prepare a list of specific questions to consider exploring.
Examples include: What specific skills should I focus on to improve my performance? How can I better prepare for future assignments? Did I approach legal issue(s) correctly? Did my legal research include all relevant case law? What is one thing that I did well and one thing that I could improve?
You should also spend some time thinking of areas that you want to improve and be prepared to ask directly for input on those areas. Avoid general requests, such as “Did I do a good job?” These are unlikely to generate the substantive feedback you are seeking.
2. Identify whom—and when—to ask for feedback.
Summer associates often have a number of individuals to choose from when seeking input on performance, including supervising partners and attorneys, recruiting coordinators and/or committee members, attorney mentors, and paralegals and law clerks.
Use common sense in identifying whom to approach at the conclusion of your summer program. Consider asking a senior associate or partner that you worked for on more than one assignment or a mentor or trusted colleague with whom you have developed a close working relationship.
Take the initiative and send an email asking for a quick meeting, at their convenience, to review your work performance. Make sure that the timing of your request accommodates the schedule of the person providing feedback and allows adequate time for them to prepare an assessment of your work. Once under way, be mindful of the person’s time, and ensure that the meeting does not exceed the scheduled time allotment.
3. Have an open, productive, and constructive session.
For feedback to be truly useful, be open to hearing an honest and possibly critical assessment of your performance. Be clear that you are asking for helpful and constructive criticism and that you are prepared to listen and learn, without judgment or argument.
Ask for guidance on what you could have done better in a specific situation, or—better yet—what you can do better going forward, as people tend to be more honest when asked these types of questions. Do your best to remain calm and do not immediately react to or interrupt any negative criticism.
Make sure that you take notes to show that you value the feedback you are receiving. These notes can be referenced as you implement the advice in the future. Don’t be afraid to ask for suggestions or clarification to confirm your understanding.
4. Remember to say ‘Thank you.’
The final step in the process is to thank the person providing feedback. Let them know that you appreciate that they took the time to speak honestly with you about your summer performance. Consider both thanking them in person at the end of the meeting and also following up afterwards with an email or handwritten note thanking them for their observations and guidance.
Bloomberg Law subscribers can find additional content related toward summer and junior associates, including practical guidance, workflow tools, surveys, and more on our In Focus: Core Skills – Litigation and In Focus: Lawyer Development pages.
Everyone can find related content available for free on our In Focus: Lawyer Well-Being page.
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