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First, congratulations! As you begin your summer program, the highest hurdle that you will face before starting your career as a New York lawyer is already behind you. You have survived the grueling interviews and have distinguished yourself from countless other law students. You are well on your way to achieving your goals. The only hurdles left are to have a successful summer, receive an offer for full-time employment, graduate and pass the bar exam. Having a successful summer is certainly a challenge, but it is also, in many ways, the easiest (and most enjoyable) of all the hurdles to clear. And the secret is really quite simple. Do what you have always done. Do what you did to distinguish yourself in college, get into law school in a period of intense competition, and get an offer for employment in the nation’s toughest market. That being said, it is always helpful to have a few tips from those who have been through the process to confirm what you already know. So, here are five things to do to help ensure that you have a successful and enjoyable summer. Actively Seek Assignments. The most important aspect of the summer program is the work. Although lunches and events are fun, you should not forget that this is a job. It is easy to keep a low profile and avoid getting too many assignments, but you should keep in mind that (for many of you) this summer marks the first time that you will be exposed to how a law firm works. Getting a feel for what it is like to work at a firm is the most important experience you will take away from the summer program. Besides, it is always good to show initiative. If you are given an assignment that you are particularly interested in, go back to the partner or supervising attorney and let him or her know. Ask follow-up questions. You will probably be given a task that represents only one aspect of a deal or case, but you will learn a lot more if you can put your work assignment into the context of the entire project. Also, ask this partner or supervising attorney for similar types of work, or ask for assignments in other areas in which you are especially interested. Showing initiative does not mean that you compete with the rest of your summer classmates. You might think that when it comes to offers, it’s either you or them. But this way of thinking is counterproductive. Firms work best when everyone works together. Nobody wants to work with someone who tries to make herself or himself look good by making someone else look bad. Participate in Summer Program Activities. Work is important. But it is not the only reason your law firm has a summer program. Each firm has a different culture, and your success over the course of your career will depend, to a degree, on how well you fit into your particular firm. That you received an offer for the summer means that your interviewers believed that you could do the work. As an associate, you will be spending a lot of time with other people in the firm during long working days. The summer program activities offer a great way to get to know people away from work. You should evaluate how well you fit in with the partners and associates, just as they will probably be evaluating how well they fit in with you. So have fun, and try to make some new friends, since you will most likely be spending a lot of time with them over the next several years. Work Hard on Every Assignment and Show a Willingness to Learn. The assignments that you receive may not be the most important part of a particular deal or case. But that’s not what counts. What counts is that the assignment should be important to you. You should treat your responsibilities on a particular deal or case as the most important aspect of that deal or case. Even if you get an assignment that you are not particularly interested in, it is still essential to do a good job. You can definitely do the work; now is the time to prove it. For example, if you are given a complex but tedious research assignment, use the opportunity to sharpen your research skills. As an associate, being able to quickly navigate both Lexis and your firm’s library will be an enormous asset (and perhaps save you from some really long nights). Fine-tune your cognitive skills. Complete the assignment you are given in the manner prescribed by the partner or supervising attorney, but see if you can imagine the direction in which the deal or case is heading. Again, ask questions. It not only shows interest, but it will also ensure that you are heading down the right path with the assignment. Try to get a wide range of experience. At the beginning of the summer you may think that you have no interest in doing corporate work, or no talent for litigation. But you should try a bit of everything. What goes on at a firm is very different from law school. You might be surprised at what you find to be the most rewarding work. Also, don’t be scared to try something new because you don’t have any experience in that particular area. As a summer associate, you are not expected to know that much, but you are expected to be enthusiastic and willing to learn. Be Courteous and Respectful at All Times. You should always be courteous and respectful to everyone at your firm. This includes not only partners and supervising attorneys, but also your colleagues and your firm’s administrative support staff, especially the secretaries, the word processing department, the library staff and the mail room. Your work as an associate depends on these hard-working people. Always act professionally at events and lunches, too. Summer events should be fun, but remember that you are trying to meet partners and associates and make a good impression. It definitely gets around if someone acts in an unprofessional manner. Firms are not looking for stiffs, but they do want professionals. Once you become an associate, you will be invited to events in similar settings that will involve clients. Here is an opportunity to demonstrate that you will be an asset to your firm. You should show the partners for whom you work that you have the tact and poise necessary to foster good client relationships. Relax and Enjoy the Experience. Nothing about the summer program should scare you. You already know what you need to do to be successful; you would not be in this position if you didn’t. The summer program will be full of new and unique experiences, from hard and exciting work to fun events. Above all, enjoy these experiences. Getting the offer was the hard part. All you have to do now is relax, be yourself and make sure that you take the time to enjoy everything that the summer program has to offer. Paul W. Mourning, a health care partner with Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, is chairman of the firm’s recruiting committee. Stephen A. Trowbridge is an associate with the firm, with a practice concentrated in corporate law and mergers and acquisitions.

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