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You spent months this past fall searching for the perfect job. You sent countless resum�s and told innumerable interviewers about your greatest accomplishments and biggest weaknesses. You mastered the art of ordering meals at fine restaurants so as to minimize the risk of spills and splatters. Finally, you were rewarded with a position as a summer associate, and you accepted it with relief. But shortly before you were to start, anxiety set in — concerns about your lack of “real world” experience and perhaps even worries about very practical issues, like your unfamiliarity with the dictaphone or your firm’s attitude about online research tools. You also may have been wondering about your prospects for future employment at the firm. I was a summer associate at Archer & Greiner in the summer of 1998 and clearly remember experiencing many of these worries. I survived that summer and am now an associate with the firm, which means that I was at least somewhat successful as a summer associate. I do not pretend to know any secret methods for ensuring an offer at the end of the summer, but I can share some memories and advice about my experience: 1. BE YOURSELF. Your firm hired you because it was impressed with your credentials, experience and resume — and your personality. During your interviews and meetings, the firm’s members observed characteristics in you that they liked and led to your selection as a summer associate. Do not spend the next few months trying to be someone you are not, trying to fit into what you perceive to be the firm image. If you do, you are likely to make yourself miserable. More important, members of the firm will realize that you are not being genuine. And make sure that you use common sense when interacting with members of the firm. Avoid embroiling every member of the firm in the details of your personal life. Moreover, be positive. Although everyone is entitled to his or her occasional bad moods, people do not want to work with someone they perceive as unhappy or negative. Your lack of understanding of a complicated legal issue will be forgiven; your negative attitude toward the assignment itself or the attorney assigning it may not. 2. GET TO KNOW THE MEMBERS OF THE FIRM. During your summer, the members of your firm will try to determine whether you are a person with whom they would like to work. You must likewise determine whether they are people with whom you can envision spending the majority of your time. Use your summer experience to evaluate the type of people at the firm. After you review an assignment and realize that the issues or instructions are less than crystal clear, approach the individual giving the assignment. If he or she looks at you with dismay when you ask him for some clarification, stares at a watch the entire time you speak wondering how many billable minutes you will waste with your question and/or answers in a condescending manner generally reserved for the kindergarten crowd, you should be wary. As summer associates, and as permanent associates, assignments will be unclear and issues will require further explanation. You should feel comfortable asking assistance from members of the firm. Lawyers are busy, but you should not be made to feel that your question, and for that matter, you, are trivial or inconsequential. Through your observations, you will be able to see whether lawyers at the firm tend to be relaxed or uptight, condescending or helpful, indifferent or compassionate. 3. DON’T ENGAGE IN COMPETITION WITH FELLOW ASSOCIATES. Some summer associates perceive the summer as a competition against fellow associates for the coveted gold medal, the permanent offer. However, this summer is not about outdoing other summer interns; it is about doing your personal best. Firms often have sufficient positions for as many associates as they wish to hire. Thus, there is no need to compete against one another for a single position. Furthermore, your fellow summer associates can be a valuable resource. They can be a source of encouragement when you are worried about your performance and a source of advice when you are unsure about a research question or other practical concerns. More important, they are people experiencing the same anxieties and concerns as you; sharing your feelings with them will make you feel less alone. In fact, you may even find that some of your fellow associates are people with whom you would choose to associate after work hours. 4. WORK HARD. Although it may be easy to forget amidst the cocktail parties, days at the beach, canoe trips and the activities the recruiting committee has planned for your enjoyment this summer, don’t lose sight of the real reason for your presence at the firm — to work. The hiring committee will review the quality of your work throughout the summer. The decision to extend an offer of permanent employment will be based largely on your ability to produce quality work in the time allotted. Do not panic. This summer is not a test of your ability to correctly answer the legal issue in the shortest amount of time. The hiring committee simply wants to assess whether you possess the ability to complete assigned tasks and provide coherent, comprehensive answers to the questions posed. Demonstrating your ability in these areas is not complicated. When you are given an assignment, immediately determine the deadline and make every effort to complete the assignment by then. However, if for some reason completion by the desired date is impossible, alert the assigning partner as soon as possible. Advance notice will allow the assigning attorney to reassign the task if necessary or seek an extension if possible. Failure to alert the assigning attorney may lead him or her to believe that you are irresponsible or unreliable. If the assigning attorney requests only an oral response to the question posed, write a brief memo or outline for yourself, organizing your research and thoughts. Your presentation will be much more coherent, you will be better prepared to answer questions the attorney raises during your discussion and you will be one step ahead if the attorney asks you to draft a brief memo on the topic summarizing your research and conclusions. When the assigning attorney requests a written answer to a question, remember that the details are important. Although the members of the firm recognize that you do not have much experience, they do expect your work to be presented professionally. You should not submit work that contains typographical, spelling or grammatical errors. And use the use proper citation forms in your written work. In addition, use only good law in your legal analysis. Relying on a case or statute that has been vacated or amended is not only embarrassing to you, but may prove disastrous to a legal brief. When doing work, remember that mistakes will probably be forgiven, but laziness and sloppiness will not be. Be flexible about the hours you are willing to work this summer. Although you need not spend every waking minute at your firm, you should be willing to work more than just 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Such flexibility will ultimately benefit you. You will have the opportunity to get involved in actual projects because attorneys will notice that you do not disappear as soon as the clock strikes five. In addition, by working the occasional weekend or staying at the firm late one night, you will get a sense of the work expectations and realities of the associates at your firm. 5. USE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO TRY NEW THINGS. This summer is your chance to explore various legal fields, to determine your preferences or to decide whether the practice area in which you have always had an interest is everything you expected. Request a variety of assignments in areas of law. In some summer programs, assignments will be distributed by a central entity. In that type of program, you must request assignments in different practice areas that require different skills in order to sample the various types of law. Some programs may allow you to float through various departments. While floating, seek out new and different types of work. Ask to be involved in the incorporation of a new company or to help in the drafting of a complaint or answer. In other summer programs, associates may select assignments that seem interesting from a large collection. Do not choose only assignments that seem easy or require only research. Ask to accompany lawyers during hearings, depositions, closings and motions. Attorneys are often flattered when you demonstrate an interest in observing them at work, and they enjoy the chance to display their legal skills to observers. You also should seize the opportunity to try new things out of the office. Your recruiting committee has gone to great lengths to plan events and activities for you this summer. Take part in them. Go to the canoe trip even if the closest you have come to rowing a boat is the rowing machine at your gym. Play volleyball at the day at the beach even if you have not spiked a ball since high school physical education class. 6. TAKE FULL ADVANTAGE OF THE OPPORTUNITIES PRESENTED TO YOU THIS SUMMER. Enjoy your summer. This summer offers many opportunities for you — the chance to sample various practice areas, the chance to meet new people, the chance to try new things. Do not skip the day at the beach to get a head start on research that is not due for two weeks. However, do not feel pressured to attend the yachting excursion if you are deathly afraid of water. This summer is the hiring committee’s chance to review your work and to determine whether you meet the firm’s expectations. More important, this summer is your chance to determine whether the firm meets your expectations. Be attentive to how members of the firm treat one another, and how they treat you. Do not spend the next few months worrying about whether you are meeting their expectations. If you do, the summer will pass without you discovering whether the firm meets your expectations. Moreover, tormenting yourself about your prospects for future employment will not make your work of a better quality, nor will it make you more likely to impress the hiring committee. Your summer will pass quickly, but the decisions made based on your experiences this summer may impact the path your career takes for years to come. Be attentive, be positive, be daring and do not forget to have some fun. The author, a first-year associate with Archer & Greiner in Haddonfield, represents management in labor and employment matters. She was a summer associate at the firm in 1998.

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