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Acing It as a Summer Associate: Duane Morris’ Duffy and Barton

June 10, 2021, 8:00 AM

As first-year associates in different cities for Duane Morris, we experienced the joys of in-person summer associate positions in 2019, but started our jobs in the height of the pandemic.

Working remotely has given us a chance to reflect on how summer associates facing remote summer programs can embrace the experience and develop camaraderie with other attorneys and on how they can secure good assignments.

Emily Duffy: Make the Most of Working From Home

For summer associates who are working from home this summer, my advice would be to attend as many virtual events and meetings as possible. It never hurts to practice interacting with partners and senior associates virtually (the timing of successfully delivering a joke in a group setting via Zoom is an art, not a science).

If you hear about an interesting webinar, meeting, or virtual event, ask if you can attend. I’ve had the opportunity to join meetings held by a variety of different industry groups and have gotten an inside look at what they’re doing, how they’re thinking about the current climate and what’s on the horizon.

I’ve gained a new, more global perspective of the firm. I don’t think I would have gotten the same learning opportunities if we weren’t working remotely.

Obviously, working remotely is not an ideal way to begin your career. It’s difficult enough to navigate a law firm, but doing it through a screen presents a unique set of challenges. The biggest disadvantage has been feeling disconnected. To overcome that, you must take initiative and become your own biggest advocate.

I’ve found that reaching out to junior and senior associates has been invaluable. While we don’t have the option of stopping by someone’s office right now, picking up the phone can achieve the same goal.

You can save yourself hours of spinning your wheels with one five-minute phone call to ask for advice on how to approach an issue. And while you will inevitably spend 43 minutes drafting a three-sentence email (we’ve all been there), you can avoid some of that panic by asking for help.

Another invaluable resource is your summer associate class. While working remotely makes it harder to make personal connections, I think it’s possible if you make the effort. It’s great to have a platform to ask the entire group questions but it’s also important to form closer one-on-one bonds with those co-workers who you feel the most comfortable confiding in.

Take the initiative to plan virtual or in-person events to get to know each other, and find things you have in common with people outside of work. Camaraderie is one of the most rewarding parts of a summer associate experience, and I think this new virtual setting calls for everyone to make a collective effort to achieve that.

Ashley Barton: How to Get Good Assignments

My advice wouldn’t be any different for a remote associate versus an associate starting in the office: Take initiative, anticipate the needs of a case and capitalize on every opportunity.

An associate’s job is to find assignments and get on matters where you can take some responsibility away from the partners.

If a partner gives me a research assignment to “find case law that supports this proposition,” I’ll ask myself: How does it fit into the bigger context of the client’s case? How can I deliver a work product that will be most helpful in achieving the purpose of the research? I take the time to look up the client’s matter or ask for a quick phone call with the partner to find out how the research will be used.

Instead of copying and pasting some cases that answer the question, I provide the analysis for how these cases fit with our client’s facts, so that all the partner has to do is copy and paste it into a motion, or send the memo straight to the client.

You, as an associate, are in the weeds of the research and best understand how it fits with the client’s case. I’ve never received feedback from a partner that I did “too much.” Instead, I’ve received follow-up assignments. In one case, the partner emailed and asked me to write the entire motion.

Also, it is important to find things in common with partners other than your interest in a certain area of law. I’ve made some great connections with other attorneys from completely non-work related common interests, and this has led to strong mentorship, collaboration, and other opportunities within the office.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. or its owners.

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Author Information

Emily Duffy practices in the area of litigation in the Philadelphia office of Duane Morris. She received her law degree from Temple University Beasley School of Law.

Ashley Barton practices in the area of litigation in the San Diego office of Duane Morris. She received her law degree from the University of San Diego School of Law.

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