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Here’s the definition of a problem summer associate: apathetic. Sure, law firms want you to work hard and do good work — that’s a given. But what else do they want? What are the characteristics of the ideal summer associate? The quick answer is: Be involved, be challenged, and be yourself. Don’t be apathetic. Here are some more tips to ensure that you’re giving the firm what it wants. Take advantage of all the good things being offered. Firms structure their summer programs to showcase their strengths. (That’s why they call it recruiting.) They will tap their VIPs to speak at special events, to participate in training sessions, and to carve out interesting and challenging work assignments. In other words, firms are offering up their best to you. Take advantage of it. Find out what’s being offered by participating. For instance, you will undoubtedly be presented with a slate of training programs for the taking. Attend the sessions that sound most interesting to you and be sure to introduce yourself to the speakers after the session is over. Tell them you want to work with them. Summer associates who take advantage of all that is offered, who seek out what they want and go after it, are always the happiest. And so are the firms — that’s exactly the kind of behavior they want. Don’t disappear. Lawyers want you to check in with them. Sure, it would be nice if they came to you first since you’re the new kid on the block, but the reality is that lawyers in New York City firms are super busy. When you get assignments, check in with the supervising attorneys regularly. Let them know what track you’re on, substantively and/or time-wise. If you’re running into any road blocks, speak up and let them help you. You can do this by dropping by the attorney’s office, sending an e-mail or picking up the phone. Leaving one phone message or e-mail sometimes isn’t enough. Follow up. Who knows, maybe they didn’t get the first message. Put yourself in the supervisors’ shoes — imagine how many matters they’re trying to juggle. If something needs attention, if an assignment is off track for whatever reason, they not only want you to alert them to it, they will truly appreciate your doing so. Speak up. Firms are unhappy when they find out that a summer associate had a bad experience and didn’t say anything about it until the summer was over. Speak up whenever things are not going your way. Firms want you to speak up if you’re not getting the types of assignments you want, or if your office mate is driving you crazy, or if you’re unsure how to handle a sticky situation. You can turn to anyone: your secretary, your assigned mentor or “buddy,” or the recruitment department. Recruitment staffers have probably dealt with whatever situation is bothering you before and, at a minimum, can point you in the right direction. That’s their job. The point is, firms want to fix your problems if they can. They want you to be happy, but they are clueless that you’re unhappy if you are suffering in silence. Be a good citizen. Firms want you to be professional. It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of maintaining a high level of conduct in the office. In many instances, professional conduct is nothing more than common sense or good manners. Do what’s asked of you. For instance, don’t make the firm chase you down for your diaries or for a response to an invitation. Be prompt and prepared for every occasion. Don’t take it too seriously. What firms want most is for you to be yourself. When they take a break for lunch with summer associates, they want to have fun. You do too, right? So, make the most of it. Put yourself out there. Be yourself. At the end of the day, if the lawyers don’t like your personality, you’re not at the right firm. Patty Morrissy is the legal recruitment director at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

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