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Summer is the time of year for many things. For most, summer means fun-filled days of warm weather and travel. As usual, however, things are different at The Firm. There, summertime means the presence of summer associates. More critically, it means the dreaded Firm-sponsored pool/volleyball/barbecue party at a partner’s house in honor of those summer associates. Calling this sort of a get-together a “party” is not accurate. A better term would be “three or four uncomfortable hours of forced conversation with colleagues.” But I suppose the term “party” is more appealing and gets a better draw. If you were to go to 20, 30 or even 100 of these parties put on by different law firms in different parts of the country, you would have great difficulty finding distinctions. I’ve been to lots of them, and, basically, they’re the same. When it comes to law firm summer parties, I therefore feel more comfortable than usual in making my gross generalizations about lawyer life. Firm summer parties are an obligation to be endured. If you’re a summer associate, there’s a chance you might have a good time — especially if you have already decided you’re not going to work at The Firm even if it gives you an offer. You can treat it like any other party and be your usual rude self. If you’re a lawyer already working at The Firm, however, you have to come to realize that nothing good comes of these parties. As an associate, all the things that can happen are bad. Party Poopers 1. You have a bit too much to drink and end up saying and doing certain things you really shouldn’t in front of the people who hold your professional future in their hands. 2. Worse than that, your significant other has a bit too much to drink and says and does certain things he or she shouldn’t do in front of your colleagues. 3. Still worse, one of your colleagues has a bit too much to drink and reveals to your colleagues that he or she is your significant other. 4.Somehow, either voluntarily or involuntarily, you end up in the pool. This means you will be seen, either in wet clothes or a bathing suit, by partners who will never look at you the same way again. 5. You get stuck in a conversation with a partner. One of the worst things that can happen is that during the course of the evening you find yourself one-on-one with the partner you work for. You suddenly realize that never before have you been in a social situation with this person. Despite your desperate efforts to think of something to say, nothing will come to mind. You then sadly realize that you have nothing to say to this person that is unrelated to what goes on back at the office. Even though you know you shouldn’t talk about work at the party, the lack of conversation is so painful that you’ll give up and ask about a client or comment about something relating to the partner’s practice, such as “Too bad the Supreme Court failed to grant your motion on the Elian Gonzalez case.” 6. You’ll turn around from the buffet line and suddenly realize there is no place to go. All the tables where you want to sit are full. You intensely feel all eyes on you as you hesitate in deciding between sitting next to the office manager or the people from the tax department. Either way, it will be a great embarrassment. The other option that comes to mind, which might be the best option, is to put your food down and leave the party. 7. Speaking of leaving, be careful with how this is done. If, by complete accident, you happen to be seen leaving the party at the same time as one of the summer associates, the immediate conclusion that will be reached by all is that the two of you are having an affair. Much better to leave early in the evening, maybe just after you are unable to find a table. 8. Your secretary may use the occasion to express previously unexpressed feelings for you. Whether those feelings are hostile or amorous, the fact that they are expressed at all in this setting can be quite embarrassing. This is a good time to jump into the pool and swim some laps. Fortunately, before too long, summer will come to an end. Of course, soon after the summer party is over, you start worrying about The Firm’s holiday party. The Rodent is a syndicated columnist, whose columns are distributed by American Lawyer Media, and author of “Explaining the Inexplicable: The Rodent’s Guide to Lawyers.” His e-mail address is THE [email protected]

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