Jet-setting to London for a week. Sailing around Manhattan Island. Singing along to Billy Joel during a stadium concert.
Sure, the life of the summer associate in Big Law is filled with real work, too. And perks like those above are no match for what summer associates were offered before the Great Recession (remember 24-hour car service, anyone?). But still, it’s a pretty good gig. We reached out to a number of Am Law 200 firms throughout the country to find out how they’re showing associates a good time this summer.
Embracing a city’s hottest attractions is Ropes and Gray’s plan. Its Boston office rents out the Museum of Science, where associates explore the museum and are treated to a dinner. In New York, the associates saw the Broadway production of “Mothers and Sons” and talked to one of the main actors, Bobby Steggert, after the show. Meanwhile, the Chicago and San Francisco summer associates were taken to concerts and sporting events. Partner Richard Batchelder says, “The way we view it is that it’s a great time for the summer associates to get to know each other and get to know the firm.”
Shook, Hardy, & Bacon partners Stanley Davis and Andrew See invited summer associates sailing on a lake in Kansas City, Mo. The associates will also go zip-lining; attend a Royals game in a luxury suite; watch the Sporting Kansas City soccer team; and dine at the homes of partners and associates.
Firm outings in Westchester County, N.Y., with Kazowitz Benson Torres & Friedman consist of golf, tennis, swimming and cocktails. The firm holds dinners at a Russian cabaret in Brighton Beach, takes summer associates to Yankees games and encourages them to perform charity work with groups such as Operation Backpack, which provides school supplies to children living in New York’s homeless shelters.
“People like informal events—the more informal, the more at ease,” says Mindy Lindenman, director of legal recruitment. “The firm is bigger than what it was, so it’s nice to get everyone together.”
Cleary Gottlieb offers a range of activities, from small dinners to bigger events, says media relations analyst Timothy Vaughn. He says events such as a boat cruise and a private movie screening of “Edge of Tomorrow,” with a special introduction from the film’s director, Doug Liman, are especially popular.
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison’s summer associate program features events such as Shakespeare in the Park, Yankee games, a sailing trip around New York and Broadway shows. Its Washington, D.C., program hosts summer associate programs such as attending sporting events, including them in a softball league, cooking classes, cocktail parties, and cultural events.
In Dallas, Haynes and Boone flies in all their summer associates from around the country for a “black-tie optional” event that has management presentations and gives the summer associates a daylong session with the board of directors. They also have karaoke, summer soccer and softball leagues, and happy hours; attend baseball games; and dine at the partners’ homes.
A global experience is offered at Linklaters. Each summer, associates from the firm’s offices around the world are flown to London for a midsummer retreat. Summer associate Francis L. McCabe says, “It’s a fantastic opportunity. You become part of the culture, and I think that’s one of the aspects of the retreat and the whole summer program.” In London, the firm rents out a museum and holds a dinner for the entire firm and its visiting global associates.
Still, it isn’t the glory days before the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009, summers of extravagance for summer associate programs. Jeffrey Lowe, global practice leader of Major, Lindsey & Africa’s Law Firm Practice Group, says those programs were “a product of a very different legal industry.”
Before the recession, law firms were all about showing associates the best of the best they and their location had to offer. Associates would get 24-hour car service, front row tickets to concerts, dinners at top restaurants and more. And firms were happy to meet other associate requests to attract and retain top talent.
Now, however, it’s more of a buyer’s market for law firms, says Kent Zimmermann, a law firm consultant at the Zeughauser Group. That is, it’s more up to the associates to impress the law firms than the other way around. “Clients increasingly don’t want to pay for first-year and sometimes second-year associates,” Zimmermann says. “Because of that, firms hire less of them.”
The message for this year’s summer associates: Have fun, sure, but knock the socks off the firm.