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For summer associates, the first days on the job can be disorienting. A new firm, new colleagues, new work, and, often, a new city can all make it hard for summer associates to get their bearings. At the D.C. office of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, we wanted to find a way to acclimate each associate to the firm and the D.C. area, and to equip each candidate with the information needed to get the most from his or her experience. Our solution: for one weekend in late March or early April, Paul, Hastings flies each summer associate and their significant other, if any, to Washington, D.C., and offers a full slate of activities. Accounting for approximately 20 percent of our entire summer associate budget, the Spring Getaway Weekend accomplishes several key objectives: • Class bonding begins more than a month before the official start of the program. The summer associates get to know one another in a noncompetitive environment, without the myriad stresses of everyday law firm life. In our experience, when the students return to their campuses after the weekend, they have already formed relationships with their fellow summer associates — ties that facilitate continued communication and class cohesiveness. As a result, summer associates are bonded from day one of their experience. • Each summer associate begins at the firm on the same footing. Because of staggered start dates and split summers, associate classes may never even convene as a group. Some associates begin at the firm feeling as though they are at a disadvantage when compared with their earlier-starting peers. At the Getaway Weekend, every summer associate is introduced to the office and its attorneys at the same time and is given an equal opportunity to learn about the firm. • Paul, Hastings sets itself apart from other firms and creates a buzz on our target campuses. Many summer associates receive only minimal communication from their firm between the time of the offer and the onset of the summer associate program. But our candidates return to their campuses in April, having already met with their partner and associate mentors, with many of their questions about the program answered. Not only that, but they enjoyed an all-expenses-paid weekend in Washington. (Did I mention that we put everyone up, even the summer associates from local law schools, at the Willard?) The Getaway Weekend begins with presentations from the D.C. office chair and a few other long-timers on the history of Paul, Hastings, firm and office growth and strategy, and goals for the future. On Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, junior and midlevel associates meet with the summer candidates to give an overview of what we call “Cool Things” — the cases, clients, and deals that the associates currently are working on. These are projects that the summer associates are likely to have a chance to work on when they arrive six weeks later. We also have a panel of former summer associates who pass on wisdom about how to be a successful summer associate — how best to use their paired partner and associate, how to deal with the secretary assigned to them, and the realities of billing time effectively. The weekend also includes mentoring opportunities with firm leadership, including dinner at a partner’s house, which all summer associates and their paired partners attend. The weekend, however, is not merely about firm culture — it also has everything to do with familiarizing the summer associates with Washington, D.C. The summer candidates are given time on Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday to explore the area, see the sights, and even apartment hunt. On Saturday evening, the paired associates plan an evening highlighting a few of the unique D.C. experiences. This year, our fourth annual Spring Getaway Weekend, they attended a performance of the Capitol Steps, followed by an evening on the town. The program has proven extremely popular with our summer associates, and we believe it is truly money well spent. We have found that by giving time and personal attention at the outset, the return on the investment made by the firm and by the summer associates has increased exponentially. From the very beginning, the Spring Getaway Weekend sets the tone for the entire summer program, while giving the candidates a comfort level not easily achieved and a personal introduction to the firm that happy hours simply cannot. Jon A. Geier is the professional development chair for the D.C. office of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker and a partner in the employment law department. He has led the office’s summer program for the last eight years.

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