Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
It’s that time of year again: Horror stories about summer associate fiascos (always at another firm across town, of course) are starting to make the rounds. No one can forget the classic examples of summer associate excess: Reply All e-mail snafus detailing the escapades of the previous evening (which always, it seems, end up being forwarded to every lawyer on the Eastern Seaboard); inappropriate e-mails to entire firms venting about some firm policy — like the summer associate a number of years back who took a multinational firm to task for having adopted a casual dress code that he found “unprofessional”; summer associates who drink so much that they throw up on a partner’s antique oriental rug; and, of course, the apocryphal summer associate who sat on and crushed a partner’s dog. Because we do not want any of you to be the subject of this year’s most outrageous summer debacle, we have some advice to pass along about the less obvious pitfalls that incoming summer associates might face. (Repeat after us: Never use Reply All . . .) First, a bit of background. We are both senior associates in the D.C. office of the multinational firm Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw. Neither of us was a summer associate at Mayer, Brown, though collectively we were summer associates at three large, well-known firms in D.C., Chicago, and Boston. (And, yes, we each received offers from every firm where we spent a summer.) Now, on to the heart of the matter: Advice to new summer associates, or, what not to do this summer. (Repeat after us: Never use Reply All . . .) For starters, you should realize that firms differ; thus, any advice we give cannot be “one size fits all.” For example, we are aware of firms at which showing up to social events is very important, whereas at other firms — such as Mayer, Brown — your chances of receiving an offer will not go down in the slightest if you do not attend a single social event. You should find out your firm’s expectations, and then try to fulfill them. That said, we can still provide a few words of wisdom that we expect will apply wherever you are. Turning to the “play” side of the summer associate experience first, we have only a few specific pieces of advice. • Just because something is a “social” event outside of the office, you do not thereby have license to misbehave. Inappropriate behavior will be remembered (for many, many years) no matter where it occurs. Also, behavior that might be appropriate in a group containing only summer associates and junior associates may not be appropriate in a group containing more senior attorneys. • Regardless of whether there is any obligation to participate in social events at your firm, you really should do so. They can be fun, believe it or not. Also, while a dour attitude and a complete refusal to take part in social events may not prevent you from getting an offer, remember that the theory here is that you are considering a long-term job at the firm. Many of the people you meet may be your future co-workers. A reputation for arrogance or rudeness, once obtained, is hard to lose. • Over the course of the summer you really should take the opportunity to meet as many lawyers as you can, but feel no compunction to say yes to every event or every lunch invitation. If something doesn’t interest you, that is fine — politely decline the invitation. More important, if a work project interferes with an event or a potential lunch excursion, in the end the project has to come first. If you think that the deadline on a project can be moved, check in with the assigning attorney — but do not just show up in her office the next morning and say, “I don’t have the memo done because I went to Buffalo Billiards last night with a group of summers and junior associates.” This takes us to the “work” side of the summer associate experience. The biggest piece of advice we can give, which we wish we had been told way back when, is that you must keep lawyers informed about the status of any project you are doing for them. Obviously, you should do your very best to get projects done on time — and sometimes this means working late or rearranging plans at the last minute. (Believe us, we aren’t happy when this happens to us, either.) But if for some reason you really don’t think you can get an assignment done by its due date, tell the supervising attorney as soon as possible. Perhaps the project can be split up; perhaps the deadline can slip. With enough advance notice, most problems can be solved. Recognize that the lawyers in your firm simply want to avoid last-minute surprises, and act accordingly. (Note to selves: Remember to tell partners when we are behind schedule. Gulp.) Our other pieces of work-related advice are perhaps obvious, but we’ll pass them along anyway, just in case: • You must treat everyone with respect. Aside from self-evidently being the right thing to do, if you are condescending or curt to the support staff it will be noticed and it will come back to haunt you. At some point during the summer, you may need your secretary, the document services staff, or the IT staff to go the extra mile to get you out of a jam. And even if you are lucky enough to avoid needing last-minute help, the lawyers at the firm will notice if you are sycophantic toward them but rude to the staff. Such behavior will not endear you to anyone. • Don’t pretend that you know what someone is talking about if you don’t understand; ask for clarification. Lawyers will understand that you are new at this, and will gladly explain the project to you again (or go over it in greater detail). But the time to get further guidance is when starting a project or while working on it. You do not want to be in the position of having the project explained to you again after turning in your memo. • Make sure that you understand the assigning attorney’s expectations for a project, and aim to fulfill those expectations — but don’t do things he or she does not want you to do. If the assigning attorney had wanted a 40-page law review article on your views about the general principles of antitrust law and the various ways in which courts routinely err in implementing those principles, she would have asked for it. Odds are that she really did want just the short memo on the specific question that she posed. • Understand your firm’s expectations for the amount of work you should produce over the course of the summer. Firms do not typically expect you to bill as many hours as associates do — but at the same time, they do expect you to do some work (believe it or not!). They are paying you to work, after all. But that’s not our primary reason for giving this piece of advice. Rather, as a practical matter, firms need tangible work product to use as a basis to determine whether they want to hire you. Thus, it is in your interest to make sure that they have a diverse portfolio of work that best showcases your abilities. • Relatedly, we both believe that the quality of a summer associate’s work is far more important than the quantity. It is far better to have produced two fabulous memos in a three-week period than to have written four lower-quality memos during that same time frame. • Realize that law journal obligations are not an acceptable reason to avoid doing firm work. Most firms are willing to accommodate journal work and reduce other obligations somewhat — but you should discuss this with the relevant lawyers at the firm rather than having them discover after the fact that you spent six weeks doing nothing but reviewing writing-competition entries. • Proofread everything (including e-mails); there is no such thing as a first draft. This is true even if the assigning attorney says that all she wants is a first draft, rough notes, a quick-and-dirty memo, “just bullet points,” or whatever. There is no excuse for obvious spelling mistakes or bad grammar. (We all make mistakes, but you should do your best to catch yours, even in less formal projects.) • E-mail is a wonderful tool, but remember that it creates a permanent, written record. E-mails (even private ones) can be forwarded without your knowledge, which can cause you embarrassment and may have even more dire consequences. So think about what you are writing before you hit the send button. • And have we mentioned that you should never use Reply All? David M. Gossett and William L. Olsen are senior associates at the D.C. office of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP. Gossett specializes in appellate and Supreme Court litigation; he argued his first case at the Supreme Court in April. Olsen specializes in trial and appellate litigation and government contracts; he joined the firm after nearly four years with the Department of Justice and recently assisted with the litigation of a bid protest.

This content has been archived. It is available exclusively through our partner LexisNexis®.

To view this content, please continue to Lexis Advance®.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber? Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive third party online distributor of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® customers will be able to access and use ALM's content by subscribing to the LexisNexis® services via Lexis Advance®. This includes content from the National Law Journal®, The American Lawyer®, Law Technology News®, The New York Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®, as well as ALM's other newspapers, directories, legal treatises, published and unpublished court opinions, and other sources of legal information.

ALM's content plays a significant role in your work and research, and now through this alliance LexisNexis® will bring you access to an even more comprehensive collection of legal content.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.