When my law school announced its closure in March 2020, my cohorts and I did not fully grasp that we would never return to in-person classes or the impact this pandemic would have on our lives. We thought this would be merely a hiatus from our regularly scheduled classes. We certainly had no idea that it would impact our summer associate positions or the uncertainty it would create for the future.
At that time, I was eagerly awaiting my summer associate position with BakerHostetler (Baker). This is a firm I had dreamed of working with since I went to a mock-interview event at their New York City office my 1L year.
I had heard of the many perks summer associates receive, but I was mostly excited to integrate myself into the firm and to get to know the people I would (hopefully) spend many years working closely with.
I was ecstatic when I found out that Baker would still have a summer program, albeit shortened and remote. Baker did an incredible job creating a virtual summer program, having daily morning meetings with us to start the day, offering social and networking events across practice areas that gave us the opportunity to hear from attorneys across the national offices, and providing extensive virtual training programming including practice skills for negotiation, legal research, and trial advocacy.
I knew from my limited experience with online classes, however, that this would inevitably be different than what I expected and that I would have to figure out how to navigate the firm and make meaningful connections from my dining room table.
Making Connections Via Email
Navigating the firm remotely can be pretty intimidating. Without the opportunity to pop into someone’s office or grab a coffee nearby, networking can seem like an impossible task. However, making those connections is necessary to getting known in the firm and adapting to the firm’s culture. Summer associates working remotely should take the initiative to socialize and connect with associates and partners during these unique circumstances.
It might seem overly formal, but go ahead and send an email to someone you want to connect with, and set up a coffee or lunch over Zoom. Even though your firm will set up virtual social events, you will not get the one-on-one time you ordinarily would at an in-person program. Everyone at the firm understands the limitations we have to connecting and will appreciate when you make the effort to reach out individually.
Personally, I had several Zoom coffee dates with associates and partners who worked in practice areas I was interested in at Baker. Everyone was eager to talk to me and it all felt surprisingly natural.
Lean on Mentors
When in doubt, lean on your mentors. Your mentors were in your shoes not too long ago and there is a reason the firm assigned them to guide you over the summer.
I went to my mentors for everything, from big questions about how departments functioned to small questions about how a certain partner likes a document formatted. Even though you might be working remotely, you can always shoot them a quick message and expect a helpful response.
To combat the isolation, set up social events with your fellow summer associates. Working remotely and learning how to perform your duties from home can be difficult. Make sure to set aside time to socialize, commiserate, and share insights with your colleagues by planning outside events.
Overall, it is important to use the tools available to you to forge connections during your time as a summer associate, even if that requires taking an extra step or putting in a bit more planning than you ordinarily would in an in-person program.
If I Could Do It Again ... Creating a Work Space
Working remotely means your home functions as your office space. For me, I found it difficult to maintain organization and separation of my work-life and my home-life. My apartment was strewn with memo drafts and case notes. Add to that living in a small one-bedroom in Manhattan that lacked a dedicated work space.
Suffice it to say, things got disorganized and overwhelming quickly. Having chaotic surroundings clouds your mind, creates extra stress, and does not allow you to put forth your best work product.
By the end of the summer, I figured out a system to keep organized and isolated a work area in my apartment by buying a couple of storage cabinets and identifying the most comfortable spot in my home to sit for eight to 10 hours per day.
If I could do it again, I would have anticipated that my school-work area would be insufficient and started creating a work space for myself that would better suit professional needs prior to starting my position.
Go Forth and Summer
Summer associates working remotely have added challenges of making an impression from a small box on a Zoom screen and the insecurity that comes from working in isolation on something brand new. This does not mean they cannot have a meaningful and rewarding summer working remotely, it simply means they need to take the initiative to make the most of their summer.
Enjoy what the firm offers you, create a space you can work effectively in, and reach out to make connections one-on-one. This will surely be a summer you will not forget.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. or its owners.
Francesca Rogo is an associate at BakerHostetler in New York. She received her law degree from New York Law School in May.