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It’s almost that time again — when second-year law students shed their book-laden backpacks and try on Texas firms for size. And many of the state’s top firms have more than enough planned to make sure their summer associates fit in. By combining hands-on experience, learning opportunities and a good helping of social events, firms hope to give summer associates an inside look at both their culture and their workload. At Baker Botts, 65 summer associates will get real work assignments, doing tasks that normally go to first- and second-year associates, says James Barkley, a partner in his second year of overseeing the summer workforce. “We try to give them a good taste for the work we do and a chance to get to know our clients,” he says. “We give them a good experience and some fun.” Baker Botts summer associates will have plenty of help becoming part of the firm, with each being assigned two associate advisers and one partner adviser. They will participate in corporate training sessions in the office and accompany partners out of the office to client meetings and deal closings. In addition to real-life legal activities, the summer associates will take part in a mock trial put on by National Institute for Trial Advocacy, with preparatory session the week before. At Bickel & Brewer, four summer associates will score the same assignments as first-year lawyers and are assigned to teams working on cases. As team members, they’ll brainstorm on how to handle the case and track its progress. The team leader, usually a firm partner, will hand out assignments, and the associates will dive in. Bickel & Brewer summer associates will work at the firm for 10 weeks. They will spend all of their time in Texas, except for one who specifically asked to work a few weeks in the firm’s New York City office as well. The interns generally are put on several teams so they learn to multitask, says Daniel F. Perez, hiring partner in the Dallas-based firm. The Bickel & Brewer approach is popular with the summer associates because they get one-on-one supervision with a partner and get to go to battle for their clients, he says. They also will attend at least three in-house continuing legal education programs. In addition, all summer associates do a stint at one of the firm’s storefront offices, where lawyers take pro bono cases. The interns conduct interviews of potential clients. While the firm will hold social events, the wining and dining are kept to a minimum. “We put them to work on projects,” Perez says. “We like to show them what they’ll be doing and let them make a judgment about the firm.” The 15 summer associates at Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal in Dallas will join in pro bono and community activities, says recruiting administrator Andrea Glover. In addition, they’re encouraged to be part of the work activities of the partners, including attending the same seminars and meetings. Amy Hall, recruiting coordinator for Fulbright & Jaworski in Dallas, says the office’s 16 summer clerks will attend Dallas Bar Association lunches and receptions, as well as firm meetings. Social highlights include a trip to Lone Star Park, Rangers baseball games, a lobster boil, a casino party and a Fulbright game of WhirlyBall, which combines basketball, polo, hockey and bumper carlike machines. And, for a unique Dallas experience, one Fulbright partner will give a JFK tour, loading the interns into a van and retracing the route then-President John F. Kennedy took when he was assassinated in 1963. But Fulbright won’t be all fun and games — summer associates will do plenty of research and work on cases to get experience and an idea of what areas of the law interest them. They’ll also accompany the firm’s lawyers to court and to outside meetings to get a taste of life as a lawyer at Fulbright. “A lot of them don’t know what kind of law they want to practice, so we encourage them to ask questions and attend meetings,” Hall says. In El Paso, the five summer associates at Scott, Hulse, Marshall, Feuille, Finger & Thurmond can specify ahead of time their preferred law specialty or choose general assignment for a mix of cases. The clerks who have a preference not only will work on cases in that area, but also will get other assignments outside their specialty, says Heather Humphreys, the firm’s recruiting and marketing coordinator. An associate and a shareholder in the firm team up to advise and help each summer associate, she says. “We don’t want them to think that every day is going to be a party,” Humphreys says. “We give them a lot of work.” But there is still a lot of fun crammed into the summer. Scott Hulse throws small dinner parties and get-togethers at attorneys’ homes, and holds a golf tournament and a pool party. To get a taste of life in El Paso, summer associates can visit a working ranch, go camping, take hikes or go horseback riding. For a culinary experience, they go south of the border to try out the restaurants in Juarez, Mexico. “We really give our summer associates a feel for what El Paso has to offer,” Humphreys says. CLIENT INTERACTION Thomas Leatherbury, chairman of the employment committee for Vinson & Elkins, says the Houston-based firm has developed a formula for successful summers: training events, seminars, social events, case work, volunteer work and shadowing lawyers. To make this happen, the firm sends all 181 of its Texas summer associates to Houston for a seminar that covers the firm’s history, training program, pro bono activities and initiatives on women, diversity and other areas, says Leatherbury, a partner in the Dallas office. One seminar features Sylvia Nasar, author of “A Beautiful Mind”; another will offer a panel discussion by members of the firm’s Women’s Advisory Council, which includes leaders from the business, government and nonprofit communities who counsel the Women’s Initiative Program on encouraging career development and retention of women professionals. After their summer stint, Vinson & Elkins’ summer visitors will get more than a report card — Leatherbury says the firm will extend employment offers to those students working the first half of the summer soon after they leave so they’ll have time to mull them over. “It gives them confidence that they’re doing great work,” he says. Amanda Holland, recruiting manager for the Houston office of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, says a partner will serve as an adviser and an associate as a mentor for each of the 12 summer associates there. Throughout their stint, they have lunch with each practice section head to learn more about that area of the law. In addition, they take a trip to Dallas, where R. Bruce McLean, chairman of the firm, and founding partner Alan Feld meet with the Texas summer associates. In San Antonio, summer associates at Cox & Smith work on projects and interact with clients, says recruiting administrator Amy K. Miller. In between the work activities are social events and dinners at partners’ homes. The dozen summer associates also go on a home tour with a realtor to explore the different areas of town and to learn about the school districts. “The underlying theme is to give them a realistic view of working at Cox & Smith and living in San Antonio,” Miller says. Summer associates always have full dance cards, but this year they’ll strut their stuff in front of a smaller audience. Some firms, such as Vinson & Elkins, are opting for more intimate gatherings that go a step beyond the meet-and-greet. “Generally we prefer smaller dinner parties and lunches, those sorts of things where you can really get to know each other,” Leatherbury says. The same goes for mealtime events at Baker Botts. “We have lots of lunches and dinners,” Barkley says. “We try to have in-home dinners. Those are real popular. The associates get to know people in a smaller group in a more casual setting.” Of course, it wouldn’t seem like summer associate season without at least one big bash, and Baker Botts is planning to top its 13-year casino party tradition with a brand-new event. Want details? Too bad — Barkley’s keeping the theme under wraps until the end, like a reward for a job well done.

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