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As they said in Old (or was it Middle?) English, Sumer is icumin in. Time to dust off your unused PCs, spruce up those empty offices, and brace yourself for that seasonal onslaught of summer associates. Time to think about what works, and what could be improved about your summer program, and to consider new approaches you might take to managing your summer associates. In looking at feedback from summer associates on what is important to them, it is clear that firms need to provide multilayered professional support to these nearly new professionals. What they want most from their summer experience is feedback on their work, multiple opportunities to make good impressions on, and to get to know, the people with whom they may work as first-year associates, and work assignments in the areas in which they are interested. They want fun social gatherings to buttress their efforts to become socially connected in their firms. What firms want are similar opportunities for exposure to both the intellectual abilities and the personal character traits of the summer associates to be sure the fit will be good over the longer term. Here are a few ideas on how to accomplish the goals of both parties. THE PYRAMID SCHEME In large law firms, the pyramid rules. That is our structure, with large groups of junior attorneys and smaller numbers of senior lawyers. Consider structuring the support for your summer associates with the pyramid in mind. In many large firms, summer associates are assigned to partners or associates — or, ideally, both — for the feedback and professional development that results from mentoring, as well as social support and friendship. Those partners and associates are usually asked to do specific jobs. A partner-mentor may be asked to function in a reviewing capacity, looking over the summer associate’s written work product throughout the summer and providing a layer of feedback from beginning to end of the program. The associate-adviser may be asked to focus on the socialization aspects, such as taking the summer associates to lunch, bringing them to social events, and checking in with them on a periodic basis. In addition to these mentors and advisers, direct management over the summer associate program typically resides with a smaller group of lawyers and staff, often by serving on a summer associate committee. The committee members are usually told to be available to the summer associates, to get to know them, to try to attend the summer social events, and other vague generalities. But what is the best use of the time and attention of the lawyers who serve on your committee? What can the summer associates expect from those lawyers? Mightn’t it be more effective to give committee members specific job responsibilities over the course of the summer? Following the firm’s pyramid design, here is a structure of a committee whose members have all been given specific, defined responsibilities to encourage their participation in the summer program in a manner that, in turn, enhances the summer associates’ experiences. In addition to the administrative staff who manage the day-to-day aspects of the summer program and disseminate work assignments, the committee comprises a chair and five other partners or senior counsel, three mid- to senior-level associates, and six junior associates. Assume there are 60 summer associates. That group of 60 is divided into six small “orientation groups” of 10. Each of the six groups is led by one junior associate. The group leader’s job is to focus on integrating those 10 summer associates into the firm from the first day. The leader is in charge of taking the group on a tour of the office and other first-day activities, is given a budget to organize some social events for the group during the summer, takes members of the group to lunch periodically, and checks in with them to be sure they are having a great experience at the firm. At the next level of the pyramid, a senior associate member of the committee oversees two orientation groups. The senior associate’s role is to participate in the orientation groups’ social activities, check in frequently with the two junior associate group leaders, and keep an eye out for any summer associate issues or problems. This person also monitors the 20 associate-advisers in his or her jurisdiction. At the top level of the pyramid is a partner or senior counsel committee member overseeing the two orientation groups. The senior lawyer’s responsibility is to interact with those 20 summer associates, check in with the senior associates who are supervising the group leaders, provide any senior-level support needed, and monitor the reviewing attorneys for the 20 summer associates in their groups. In addition, these partners or senior counsel, along with the remaining senior members of the committee, make up the evaluation subcommittee, helping to review and interpret the attorney evaluations of the summer associates’ work. They can also help subtly guide the summer associates to work and to people in the departments that seem to be a good fit for each student. The subcommittee members are used as well to deliver midsummer and final evaluations to the summer associates, and to help make decisions about permanent offers. Since their time is not occupied by doling out work assignments, they are able to make a more effective contribution to the program. With this structure, instead of all committee members generally “taking an interest” in all 60 summer associates and generally “being involved,” each member has a manageable, appropriately tailored and defined job to do. Most important, the system offers so many checks and balances that no summer associate should fall through the cracks. The orientation group structure produces immediate benefits to the summer associates. Instead of joining a “large, impersonal firm” with scores of summer associates to get to know, each summer associate is part of a small community that, in turn, interacts with another small community. This helps the class assimilate into the firm and bond with each other more quickly. In last year’s end-of-summer survey, members of our firm’s New York summer class commented that the orientation group structure was “very helpful” and “helped make the firm not so big.” Equally important, this structure offers enormous benefits to the associates who are members of the summer committee. They are given some coveted management experience, an opportunity to contribute to a critically important aspect of the firm, and a chance to demonstrate their leadership ability. HANDLING THOSE HYPERACTIVE PEAS Since we all know what all work and no play does, the social aspects of summer programs have become fixtures in most firms. But instead of just looking for the latest hot spots to take them to, consider trying to tie your social events to particular aspects of your firm. For example, holding your events at venues connected to, or at organizations affiliated with, clients of the firm makes obvious good sense. Putting an emphasis on quality over quantity may benefit the social side of a well-run program. In addition to the support that firms give summer associates — through attorney involvement in developing and evaluating work assignments, giving feedback, and participating in legal skills training programs — offering the summer associates support in making the transition from school to the professional world makes terrific sense, too. Certainly, your summer associates are bright, ambitious, and eager to please. Yet many are also terribly uneducated about appropriate professional behavior. No surprise here. Many have not held jobs other than summer positions during college. They have simply not had the opportunity to observe and learn appropriate business etiquette. Although we are prepared to teach them how to write and how to handle a closing, shouldn’t we also teach them how to handle themselves with other lawyers and clients? Many corporations and professional service firms now offer business etiquette training to their new professionals. Law firms should consider doing the same. There are consultants who offer fun and interesting programs that will engage your summer associates and save you (and them) from embarrassment. Business etiquette programs often focus on a hands-on instructional meal. One New York consultant, Ann Marie Sabath, calls for a menu of awkward foods such as olives (how do you get rid of those pits politely?), cherry tomatoes (to cut or not to cut?), “hyperactive peas,” onion soup with cheese, and, well, you get the idea. In addition to the instructional meal, consider whether your summer associates would benefit from constructive coaching in these areas: � Business e-mail etiquette: the tone that should be taken in messages, the difference between personal and business e-mail, and the discovery implications; � Telephone etiquette: the appropriate level of professional decorum to use on the telephone, the importance of returning calls promptly, how to get the most out of your voice-mail system; � Social etiquette: making the best impression at firm-sponsored social events, how to meet and greet at cocktail parties, how to introduce people to each other, how to make small talk, the importance of responding to firm invitations calling for an R.S.V.P.; � Meeting etiquette: how to conduct yourself in a meeting with a partner or a client, when to speak, what to say, where to sit; and � Wardrobe and image tips: how to develop an appropriate business-casual wardrobe in these topsy-turvy times when lawyers wear polos and chinos, and the only people who wear suits and ties to work anymore are benched basketball players! Although many of these points seem obvious, if you think back to some of the gaffes you’ve seen from some of your former summer associates, you may agree that this training could make a world of difference to your summer associates and your firm. Anita J. Zigman is director of associate affairs at New York-based Proskauer Rose, with responsibility for attorney training, professional development and recruitment. She was formerly director of professional development at Brown & Wood. She started her legal career as a litigation associate at Proskauer.

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