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ANALYSIS: Five Ways Summer Associates Can Wow Their Law Firms

May 26, 2021, 9:00 AM

Starting a summer associate position at a law firm can be overwhelming. Learning about the law in the academic world is one thing, but applying that knowledge in the professional legal world is something different.

Excelling at a law firm will require a different set of skills than those required for acing your exams. As you prepare for your summer, keep these tips in mind to help secure that end-of-summer offer.

1. Make a good impression.

Assignment meetings present a great initial opportunity to stand out. Plan ahead, take lots of notes, and be ready to ask key questions you need answered to succeed in the assignment and avoid a series of belated questions down the line. Those questions should seek to confirm the jurisdiction the matter is in, the preferred format for the requested work product, the expected time commitment for the assignment, and the deadline or deadlines involved.

Review this checklist to help prepare for that initial assignment meeting.

And make sure you turn in polished work product, even if the final product is just an email. Always double-check for proper formatting and bluebooking, ensure that citations are to the proper authority, and proofread for typos.

2. Manage your time.

There will always be a tug of war between being thorough and being expedient. Make sure you are up to speed on the firm’s legal research platforms, and get additional training so that your research is not only accurate but efficient.

Reach out to your firm’s librarian or knowledge management team to gain an understanding of all the resources available. And don’t forget to connect with the junior associates in your new practice group; they have recently been in your shoes, and can give you ideas about how to strike the right balance in your work and clue you in on what certain partners expect.

3. Be proactive.

Gaining a better sense of the client and its industry will help you spot issues and raise questions that you otherwise may have missed.

Research and track the clients and cases you are assigned. Visit the client’s website to get a sense of what they do, browse through their litigation history, review recent Edgar filings, and set up a news alert to stay on top of developments involving the client and the client’s industry.

4. Seek feedback.

Once you have completed an assignment, ask the assigning attorney for feedback. Do not assume that “no feedback” means there was nothing you could have improved upon, or that your work product fell flat. Lawyers are often busy and may just not make the time to give you feedback until asked.

Impress them with direct questions. How did you do in the initial meeting? Did you give them what they were looking for? How could your final work product have been better? Do they need any follow-up from you?

Learning how to seek and receive feedback is a skill that will not only get you noticed during your summer, but will serve you well throughout your professional career.

5. Reach out to colleagues.

In the past, you could start to build professional relationships by simply walking past someone’s office or waiting for them to refill their coffee. But in a virtual setting, you must reach out to colleagues with whom you want to build relationships.

Need an idea to talk about? Read client alerts or look up articles authored by the attorney to get a sense of their interests. Or, figure out other clients the attorney represents or other deals the attorney has worked on and ask about their business as a whole.

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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