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Stay away from the karaoke bar. Use your spell-check. What’s the best advice to give this year’s crop of summer associates? In an informal survey, Legal Times asked associates and partners at law firms in Washington: What was the most important thing you learned as a summer associate? We collected a lot of good advice � for summer associates and for anyone, for that matter. • Kevin Mosley, Miller & Chevalier Summer associate, 2001 and 2002. What was the most important thing? Learning how to manage my career. The basic thing was that I thought, “This is what I might be doing for the next five, 10, or 20 years, and while I’m having fun and going out, I should also start trying to figure out what the heck I’m going to do.” I was trying to learn the things that weren’t part of the printed materials. I got to be friends with the person who was in charge of assigning work, and so I got to try out what I thought of as interesting work or interesting people I wanted to work with. I also tried to expose myself to all different kinds of people in the firm. I tried to figure out: How do people get along; what are the groups of people out there? After college, I did a nine-month public affairs fellowship, and I learned how to look at an organization the way an engineer might: by looking at it as a machine that I could take apart and put back together again. Another thing I learned was to be able to anticipate something. For instance, if I was doing a project, I was starting to think: Should I ask this question or make this phone call? Or could I predict when something was going to happen? Right now, I am working with another junior associate on a continuously evolving “How to Succeed as a Summer Associate” presentation that we are debuting this summer. Hopefully I can pass along some of the tools I developed. My main advice to summers is that this is your career; you have to take responsibility for it. • H. Deen Kaplan, Hogan & Hartson Summer associate, 1994. I’m a partner now, and I’m still at the same firm where I was a summer associate. If you had asked me five years ago or eight years ago, I’d still have the same answer. Firms often have a culture. Finding a culture where you have the opportunity to thrive is as important as finding what you want to do. Lots of folks think about what kind of law they want to practice, and that matters. But finding the right culture is more important. In my own experience, I had lots of offers. I was trying to figure out where did I want to go? What had most concerned me was that I wanted somewhere where I could have some balance. I didn’t want a place where I had to practice law day and night. Some people may want a different culture. It’s probably more important than figuring out the nuances of what law you’ll practice. If you have that, you’ll thrive and do well. Firms are as diverse as the world we live in and that’s good: There should be all kinds of places. Summer associates should sit down and think: In what kinds of environments do I feel most comfortable and supported and do well? You have to be looking around and seeing if it matches. You have to be honest with yourself. Next, you have to do everything you can to get as much information as possible: have lots of lunches and ask lots of questions. If you find a comfort spot (with a person or a practice) take a little time outside of that, because it’s a little bit tempting to then stick with that thing. I always say the same thing to the folks who come in here: Take the time to try to go out with people. I’ve seen both sides of that: folks who’ve found practice areas and cultures and who do great. For other people, it’s not a good fit, and you can usually count the months or year or two, and it doesn’t work out for them. In a large firm, it’s not a 9:30 to 4:30 job. There are times when you have a deal or an issue for a client comes up, and you spend a lot of time with various people in the office. Most of the people practicing in any profession want to enjoy that. I spent a ton of time talking to people in the international group. I said, it looks like a good area for me. I did everything I could to talk to every lawyer I knew, whether at my firm or elsewhere, and I read books. I tried to synthesize that information. I also had a decade of being in the business world, so I had a better sense of what was good for me. My main advice is to pay attention to these broader issues. At the end of the day, these are going to have as much to do with the satisfaction of your life. • Mark Perry, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher Summer associate, 1992. I found my professional home. I had been a summer associate at four different firms, and went to Gibson after an appellate clerkship. I got here and finally got a place I could call my own. Being a summer associate is a great way to try out a firm. My advice? Remember: It is a summer-long interview. There have been people who do badly, who do truly stupid things. We tell them: Lawyers sell their judgment, and we hire lawyers based on their judgment. So the summer can be an extended time when people can and do sometimes display bad judgment. I think the summer associates lose sight of that all too often. You should have good judgment and have fun. I wanted to be an appellate lawyer and knew that was exactly the work I wanted, and here were the people I wanted to do it with. These are the intangibles that summers have the opportunity to take advantage of. • Khalid Jones, Crowell & Moring Summer associate, 2001. There are different levels of things to take away. First, there is the legal substantive part: you learn a lot about the law and that it is very specialized. In law school, you learn a lot of the overarching legal principles. You feel you are armed with all this knowledge and are ready to go. Then you get in there [at the law firm] and your job is finding something for a procedural matter. You realize you just have a lot to learn and that the people here have a lot to teach you. Another is the real idea of client service. In law school, you’re essentially your own client. Your work product is reflective on you. When you’re in the law firm environment, your first client is your assigning attorney. You’re really working for them in the end. This is not a selfish pursuit. I think it also disabuses the idea that some people have that it’s all about money. John Macleod, the chairman of the firm, has a session with the summer associates that goes over the economics of the firm. It shows how important they believe it is to know that. When you’re in law school, or even when you’re a junior associate, you don’t really get into law firm economics. The process is a little mysterious. Here they are up front about it. This is the reality of law firms. Beyond that, the function of law at this level very much includes the issue of economics. There’s no class for that in law school. It’s within the realm of the importance of getting meaningful assignments. Without it, you will not necessarily have the full information. The third component is the notion of time management. You get some of that in law school, although really it’s a life where everything is due at the end of the semester. That’s not a luxury you can have at a firm. It also includes feeling free to talk to a managing attorney if you are having time-management issues. When you have those three components and they all roll into one summer experience, they can meld into making a decision that that’s where you want to go. • Shane Orr, Arnold & Porter Summer associate, 2000. The big thing I took away was an understanding of how the firm works. It was a great way to see the operation of the firm and to have an opportunity to work on a bunch of different matters. It also gave me a good perspective on what the people were like, and what to expect when I got here. I had a very clear sense of what my life would be like as an associate when I came back. As a summer associate, every day I was working with different people, a broad mix of associates and partners. I came into the firm with an expectation of doing more transactional and regulatory work, but I certainly had the opportunity to investigate other groups I was interested in. I was lucky enough to come in with a rather finite area of interest. I also learned a lot about the work of the group: I knew it globally [from law school] but when I got here, my eyes were opened to its diversity as an assignment matter. I realized the complexity of all aspects of the group. My summer experience was a rather perfect balance of social events and work. I was not overworked and I did not oversocialize. • Ben Oxley, Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham Summer associate, 2003. The most important lesson? Not to turn in rough drafts. Make sure that when you turn something in to a partner, it’s as ready as possible to turn over to the client. I had been told I could give a partner a verbal report, so when he wasn’t in his office, I decided to type a rough memo and leave it with him. I quickly typed it and didn’t check for spelling mistakes or anything. It was then told to me that that may possibly reflect on my abilities. So I actually requested another assignment from that same partner, and he turned out to be thrilled with it. Other advice I have is based on observations, not firsthand experience: Although the alcohol is free, moderate consumption is a good idea. I probably saw one or two people consume more than they should have. • Katherine McCarron, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr Summer associate, 2001. One of the most important things I learned while working as a summer associate is that it’s important to know the people at the firm, the associates, the counsel, and the partners. You really have to decide if these are the people you want to work with. I really liked the people at Wilmer: They were smart, kind, and interesting. It makes a difference because you spend a lot of time with these people. People come in the summer associate program at all different levels. Some people have never had a job in a law firm before. For instance, they have to learn that you need to bring pen and paper with you when you go into a partner’s office. • Suzanne Ashley, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld Summer associate, 2001. For me, it was learning to listen and watch for the intangibles that make a firm a good place, the attitude toward the development of young attorneys. For example, if you see in a meeting both partners and associates, that shows that this is a place where I’m going to have opportunities. I’ve been lucky: We have an attitude that if the young attorney proves himself, it doesn’t matter what stage he’s at. The partner is going to let him handle the matter himself most of the time. So my advice is: When you’re going to a joint-defense meeting, look to see if the other firm has associates there. Another thing to look for is the attitude toward the total attorney. If you’re at lunch, see what kinds of things the lawyers are talking about � you can see if they have commitments and have interests outside the firm. You can learn about the firm’s commitment to community � for instance, pro bono work, foundations, political stuff. A junior can develop more from working with an attorney who’s a more-developed person. For me, the firm supported getting me on a board of directors. Also, Akin Gump really supports associates going out and getting their own pro bono cases. You have to look for the environment that’s going to nurture you as a full, developing attorney.

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