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Once upon a time, in a legal galaxy far, far away, second-year law students dreamily looked forward to their summertime gigs. For many, summer associate time was seen as a much-needed vacation from the nonstop rigors of law school � do a little legal research, get wined and dined on expense accounts, and make a ton of cash to help defray those student loans. Alas, as the galaxy’s economy changed, so too did those fantasy summer jobs. Rather than wooing law students with the resortlike experiences of twice-a-week happy hours, catered bus trips to Camden Yards, country club outings, and make-work research projects, some firms are cutting back on the social aspects and giving students more of a “real lawyer” experience. In fact, according to ALM’s 2004 summer associate survey, last year’s crop of summering students say firms are definitely trending toward more real work and less make-work. (ALM, formerly known as American Lawyer Media, is the parent company of Legal Times.) Why? In part, they say, the changes come out of demands from the students themselves. More and more, firms are having to answer to these soon-to-be 3Ls, who are more focused on getting a taste of actual junior associate experiences. That doesn’t mean, of course, that summer associate work has become all drudgery. By definition, life as a summer clerk is a mix of social activities and exposure to legal work. The social aspect of a summer experience helps both students and attorneys decide if there is a personal fit. But lavish meet-and-greet summer events have decreased in recent years. Programs are morphing from the partying to the practical. A more realistic experience, the firms argue, helps them and the students make better choices down the road. LESS RAZZLE-DAZZLE “There was a time, 10 years ago or more, when firms thought they needed to dazzle law students [with their summer programs]. Firms ultimately realized they were not getting a good read on summer associates’ legal work and how they would fit into a firm,” says Howard Rubin, a partner in the D.C. office of Chicago-based Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal. “As a result, the mind-set of firms started to evolve.” Students’ expectations evolved, as well. One attorney believes the reason for that change is simple. “There is a tighter job market” today, says Jennifer Eck, a partner at Dickstein Shapiro Morin & Oshinsky. Eck, who headed Dickstein’s summer associate project coordination in the D.C. office for the past two years, says law students are more interested in “real” summer projects today than several years ago because they are more focused on landing permanent positions and want exposure to work that will help them achieve that. One law school placement official agrees. “Law students are more informed and have more realistic expectations today. Also, they are savvier about finding a job to meet their higher tuition costs,” says Gihan Fernando, assistant dean for career services at Georgetown University Law Center. That belief shared by Eck and Fernando is reflected in what students are telling recruiters � that they want real experiences from their summer clerkships in order to get a snapshot of what life will be like once they’ve passed the bar and signed on with a firm. Others believe the desire for an experience that is different from the extravagant ’80s reflects not just a more practical outlook, but a generational change. Gen Xers figured they’d enjoy the summer as a kind of last hurrah; soon enough they’d be billing 2,000 or more hours a year and seeing more of their office than their home. Generation Y isn’t quite as eager to jump into the fray. They say they are more focused on life/work balance issues. Part of what they’re doing as a summer is trying to decide whether they can have that balance with a law career. IS IT REAL OR ‘MAKE-WORK’? What exactly is the work of summer associates? For years, students have worried that they’ll be stuck in the law library all summer and never see the light of day. By necessity, research and memo writing is a staple of these eight- to 10-week stints. Since that’s much of what real lawyers do, there’s no escaping it in a summer clerkship. But that doesn’t mean it’s all make-work. Once summer associates might have performed state-by-state surveys of fly-fishing regulations or wrote 40-page analyses on the jurisdictional differences in contributory versus comparative negligence. One law student blog advises this year’s summer associates to get ready to be treated as little more than “glorified paralegals.” But firms increasingly try to put limits on less-than-useful requests by having project coordinators screen the available work for students. Summer associate project coordinators generally review all the projects lawyers submit to ensure that they relate to real firm work, either for paying clients or pro bono matters � work that a junior associate would have to do if a summer associate weren’t around. Work can range from researching a jurisdictional question to finding case law to support a motion for summary judgment to be filed in a few days. Project coordinators can also help attorneys focus projects and match students with work that meets their interests. Some summer clerks are going to be more interested in nonlitigation work, so it’s up to the coordinators to make sure corporate and real estate work are also available. Some firms compile projects in a notebook or computer database that is used to assign projects or to allow summer clerks to choose for themselves. Michael Martinez, a partner in the D.C. office of Crowell & Moring and co-chair of that office’s summer associate committee, says it’s in a firm’s interest to steer clear of research projects without a real purpose if it wants summer associates to seriously consider joining the firm after graduation. Summer law interns should get a feel for what the work is really like in a particular law practice. A variation on the typical assignment approach has developed at Sonnenschein’s D.C. office. Based on input from summer associates in past years, Sonnenschein will assign students to work on specific cases or projects as part of a team for one or two weeks at a time, in essence creating “mini-internships” throughout the summer that will give students a better feel for the variety of work they may do down the road. BEYOND THE MEMOS Can summer associates get a taste of the meatier stuff lawyers get to do? That’s a tough one. Unlicensed law students can’t take depositions, first-chair a trial, or negotiate a corporate merger. But they can watch lawyers doing those things. Most firms encourage summer associates to watch lawyers in action as much as possible. While it may not be as glamorous as being in a trial or closing a big real estate deal, firms say they also try to find opportunities for summer associates to participate in client meetings and, when possible, make oral presentations to clients on the issues they’ve researched. Alon Cohen, a soon-to-be first-year associate at the Tysons Corner, Va., office of Greenberg Traurig, experienced that sort of trial by fire at Greenberg last summer after researching the enforceability of an arbitration clause. “The associate I was coordinating with saw the memo, picked up the phone, and 10 minutes later, I was defending the finding to the shareholder,” says Cohen. “He was not thrilled [because] this meant we needed to change strategy, so he hammered me on the research to make sure I knew it and that it was solid. Then he took a moment, considered the tactical implications, and handed out new marching orders. It was weird to walk out of that meeting and realize that, suddenly, we were approaching the whole case totally differently. “About a week and several memos later, the associate and shareholder asked if I could join them for a meeting,” Cohen continues. “The client on this case was coming in and they wanted me to explain [to the client] why we shifted our course.” According to Cohen, when it got to the point of discussing his research, “all heads turned my way. The rest was the fun part, and the client was receptive.” Others give summer associates a chance to take a stab at another real-lawyer experience: document drafting. This is especially useful for students interested in corporate or real estate practices. Lisa Ruddy, a third-year real estate associate in the D.C. office of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, says that when she was a summer associate there, she drafted parts of loan documents and lease amendments and participated in conference calls with partners and clients � all things she continues to do today, although now on a more-advanced level. While she was not responsible for the final finished product of the documents she worked on, she was allowed to take a baby step out on that limb. “I remember being impressed with the work I got to do. I got a pretty accurate picture of what my work life is like today,” says Ruddy. Another area that summer associates really sink their teeth into is pro bono work. These projects, which are often smaller in scope, can give them the chance to handle cases directly for clients in a way large corporate matters cannot. “Pro bono projects are great for summer associates because they provide the opportunity for summers to have more client contact, to feel like they are giving back to the community � something that is very appealing to law students � to have personal responsibility for the case, and to be involved in more aspects of the case,” says Laurie Vikander, vice chair of Dickstein’s hiring committee. Tomika Stevens, a first-year associate at the D.C. office of Jenner & Block, says she vividly recalls one pro bono assignment during her summer at Jenner � researching and writing a portion of a state court brief seeking to overturn a defendant’s conviction and death sentence, a case she continues to work on today. The only difference she sees in the work she did as a summer associate and the projects she works on today is a practical one associated with passing the bar exam. “As a summer associate, I didn’t have the title of attorney. So I couldn’t call opposing counsel and discuss issues or settlement, as I do today,” says Stevens. One small warning: Summer associate work sometimes turns out to be more interesting than junior associate work. For instance, Stevens says that while working as a summer associate at another firm in a different city, she spent much of her time researching and writing articles that would later be published by one of the partners. While they were interesting projects, Stevens says it wasn’t the type of work she had expected, and not really what an attorney does on a daily basis. In assessing their summer experiences, Georgetown’s Fernando says, law students should keep in mind the difference between being wooed as a summer associate and living as a junior associate, one who is more or less the “low man on the totem pole.” “Summer associates may actually get substantively more-interesting work than junior associates because firms try to find summer projects that are interesting and appealing versus the more mundane work that junior associates may do,” notes Fernando. So while there are still a few perks lurking in summer programs, like limoncello martinis and yacht outings on the Potomac, law students working this summer at D.C. firms can probably look forward to more real-lawyer work as they try to get a taste of what awaits them on the other side of their 3L year. Joanne Cronrath Bamberger is an attorney and freelance writer in Chevy Chase, Md. She enjoyed her summer associate jobs during the extravagant ’80s.

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