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Summer associates at the Washington, D.C., office of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough have an opportunity to customize their summer experience by trying a variety of different types of legal practices. “Our office is relatively small by Washington standards,” says George Wolfe, managing partner. “But we have a variety of practice areas, including corporate, litigation, regulatory, and legislative law.” Wolfe says that each summer associate has the opportunity to work with all the different practice groups but is encouraged to tailor the experience to his own interests. For example, this summer one law student from the University of Virginia intends to take advantage of the opportunity to work with all of the practice groups. Two other students, one from Georgetown and another from William and Mary, are focusing almost entirely on the firm’s corporate and regulatory financial services practice but also hope to get a glimpse into litigation. “We provide students with an opportunity to explore the breadth of work being done or to dig more deeply into a specific practice area,” Wolfe says. If students are interested in corporate work, they participate in actual deals as if they are the junior associates on the team, with appropriate supervision. The summer associates are included in client meetings and conference calls and are given the opportunity to assist with due diligence and the drafting of agreements and disclosure documents. Students who are interested in the firm’s legislative practice are often asked to attend congressional hearings and draft summaries to be used in client memos. Those interested in litigation are involved in traditional civil litigation as well as federal regulatory agency matters, including matters before the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Food and Drug Administration. “The opportunity here is different from many other D.C. summer programs,” says hiring partner Kate Kling. “Some firms do not use summer associates outside of their litigation practices, and the amount of client contact and real client work that our summer associates are given is unusual.” Kling says the small size of the office and the hectic nature of the practices mean the students are asked to do important work. “It may put more pressure on the summer associates than they may have expected, but the students are eager to rise to the occasion and seem to enjoy the work more.” The approach provides the students with real-time feedback, as much of the work they do will be delivered to a client and must be thoroughly reviewed before it is finalized. Whenever possible, the assigning attorney will sit down with the summer associates and give them feedback, then allow them to edit their own work so it can be delivered as a final work product. This is the same approach that the senior attorneys in the office use to train junior associates. “We want law students who choose to spend time with us to feel like they are really contributing and gaining real-world experience,” says Wolfe. “A summer at Nelson Mullins is designed to be a first step in helping students hone their interests and understand the reality of law firm practice.”
Mary Q. Lutz is an associate and the Washington office summer program coordinator at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough.

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