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ANALYSIS: How to Propel Your Career as Summer Ends and 3L Begins

July 22, 2021, 9:01 AM

Your time as a summer associate is coming to an end soon. Although you may only have a short time left, now is the time to set the stage for your future career.

As you prepare to return to your final year as a law student, keep these tips in mind to end the summer strong and set yourself up for a successful return as a full-time first-year associate.

1. Schedule one-on-one farewells.

Although you likely met lots of people this summer, you probably worked most closely with a particular practice group. Before you depart, see if you can schedule some one-on-one time to connect with those with whom you worked closely over the summer. This will set you up to maintain a strong connection over the coming year.

This is also a great opportunity to offer specific appreciation for any help or guidance that a colleague provided you over the summer, and to ask for feedback on your work. You can also ask for any recommendations on courses you should take in your 3L year, professional organizations you should join, or steps to help you prepare for a successful return post-graduation.

2. Stay in touch.

Going back to school does not mean that you have to lose touch with those at the firm. Before you leave, think about ways you can stay connected with your future colleagues throughout the year.

For example, set Docket Alerts on all of the active cases you worked on this summer, so that when a brief is filed or a decision is handed down, you will be alerted to it and can reach out to those working on the case.

Additionally, set a News Alert on the firm’s big clients so that you can stay up to speed on big news involving those clients. This not only shows initiative and that you are invested in the firm’s success, but it keeps you in the loop with what is happening in active matters. Many cases take years to resolve, and staying on top of case developments will allow you to more quickly jump back in should the case still be active when you return.

This is also great practice for relationship-building. To be successful long-term at a law firm, you are going to have to prove that you have the skills to build a network and book of business. By treating your future colleagues as “clients,” you can help develop those skills and advertise to those at the firm that you can and want to build a network.

3. Adjust your 3L class schedule.

Now that you have worked in a firm and have an idea of the direction your practice may go, are there any specialized classes you should take in this final year that will help you in your future practice? Are there any internship opportunities or law school clinics that can give you more “on the job” training and help improve the practical skills you will need as an associate? If your school offers one, consider taking an advanced legal research and writing course. As a junior associate, legal research and writing will be two of your primary tasks.

4. Join professional organizations.

Use your final year as a student and the flexibility it provides to join professional organizations and attend events. For example, you can join the ABA as a student in the Young Lawyers Division or join the local bar association in the city where you will be practicing. If an interesting event is happening, this gives you a great excuse to reach out to more junior associates at the firm and ask if they want to meet up.

Once you join, consider also joining a bar association committee, where you can start building contacts with other lawyers outside of your future law firm.

5. Think about a clerkship.

Even if you are not doing a clerkship immediately following your 3L year, there are alternative paths to clerkships that you need to start thinking about if you want to apply for one in the future.

For example, some state courts may have different timelines for their clerkship application process, and some federal courts now accept—or may even prefer—attorneys with a year or two of experience under their belt. Consider whether you want to pursue one of these opportunities, and take advantage of any help your law school is willing to provide in this process.

Bloomberg Law subscribers can find additional resources geared towards summer and junior associates, including practical guidance, workflow tools, surveys, and more on In Focus: Core Skills – Litigation and In Focus: Lawyer Development.

Everyone can find related content available for free on our In Focus: Lawyer Well-Being page.

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