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It’s June in Philadelphia. The city is bustling, the flowers are beautiful and the nightlife is in full effect. But if you’re a summer associate, your main focus is the work you are doing — or soon will be doing — in the Philadelphia legal community. By now, most summer associates at law firms, governmental agencies and the like have begun working. For the next 10 or so weeks, you will be consumed by your endeavor to find out what the practice of law is compared to the study of law. You are in luck because Philadelphia lawyers carry a reputation, whether it’s for tenacity, aggressive pursuit of victory or legal acumen. However, before you can call yourself a Philadelphia Lawyer, you must finish this summer as well as your remaining time in law school. There are many variations on legal jobs in the city. For example, you may work in one of the city’s large law firms. If that is your destiny, you are in for an experience. Summer associates are wined and dined by the large firms, which hope that the best students consider taking an associate position with them. You will most likely enjoy trips, baseball games, dinners, lunches and cocktail hours. You may also be privy to your firm’s more exciting work, since the firm will try to give you a taste of what life is like at the highest levels. Summers are taken along on depositions and hearings, as well as other matters that allow you to see a view of the firm that, should you take an associate position, you might not see for quite a while otherwise. However, the summer associate courtship will soon end, and you will realize that, after being a student most of your life, you are now in one of the most intense training and working grounds for attorneys. While the compensation is generous at large Philadelphia firms, the hours that you are expected to work will typically be just as generous. No more baseball games in the afternoon; no more field trips to the courthouse. Just you and your time sheets. (By the time you read this article, you will have developed a dislike for the concept of time.) It will then be the time for you to learn how to practice law. Although summer associates at large firms will hardly be the only ones working long hours, you may have the opportunity to see the most if you take advantage of the resources at your disposal. While not so much a courtship, working for governmental and public service entities offers an experience all of its own. I worked at the U.S. Attorney’s Office as well as the Attorney General’s Office as a law student, hoping I would get more hands-on experience. This is true for summer associates at nonprofit and governmental agencies, mainly because the employers do not have the resources to wine and dine, but rather offer real experience – whether in litigation or otherwise. The limited resources also means that you will most likely be forced into more responsibility at an earlier stage than if you worked at a large firm. The same generally holds true for small law firms. However, working for the government in some instances allows you to experience far more than you would working for a private firm. For example, in some agencies, the law is such that, if you have completed your ethics commitment in school, you can appear in court and handle cases of your own. My personal experience proved great in that I was forced to take more initiative in my work and more responsibility. I was afforded the opportunity to arbitrate cases, argue motions and attend settlement conferences without supervision once I got the hang of things. Therefore, if governmental work is your calling, take advantage of the opportunity before you now. In addition, numerous public interest positions are available with organizations that typically benefit the poor and indigent and, while not paying a lot of money, offer the opportunity to help others while learning firsthand about the practice of law. Such experience may be similar to that of working at a governmental agency in that responsibility comes fast to those who earn it. Small firms mirror governmental agencies in many ways with the experience offered to summer associates. You are forced by the volume of work to be more responsible and involved on other levels besides just research. The pay may not be great, but the experience is invaluable. Philadelphia has a wealth of small firms that feature well-respected and renowned lawyers who have plenty to offer in career insight and growth for a young lawyer. Take advantage of the opportunity placed before you. Law school can never replace the experience of working in the legal arena. Depending on your career choice, you can gain priceless experience working in a variety of positions. Interact not only with the lawyers in your immediate environment, but also with those you meet throughout the city. You, too, may one day become a Philadelphia lawyer.

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