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When my friend Skinny and I were second-year law students, we always fantasized about participating in a law firm’s summer partner program, rather than a summer associate program. We thought such an experience would provide us with the real skills necessary to become lawyers — without the late nights and billable hours required of associates. Little did we know that 10 weeks of billing at least an hour or two every single day, including Fridays, and attending mandatory scavenger hunts, cooking lessons, baseball games, Broadway shows, cocktail parties, golf outings and even firm-sponsored weekend trips, on top of our regular “work,” was exactly the type of education we needed. Throughout this rigorous training period, we were paid the pitifully low sum of $350 per day. Luckily for this year’s group, that rate has increased to $500. I mean, how can you live on less? Events like those mentioned above have been chosen through trial and error over many years. These activities enhance a 2L’s stamina, time-management skills, recall and communication abilities. TRAINING FOR VICTORY Most law firm associates have to work long hours while providing consistently high-quality work throughout the day (and night). Firm summer programs recognize this fact and use classic training exercises in which stamina, as well as keen analytical reasoning, often determines the victor. Take, for example, the scavenger hunt. This event is often scheduled to begin after 4 p.m., when the typical summer associate’s day is long over and exhaustion has set in. The simple act of waiting teaches patience — something that’s required when anticipating a jury’s return with a verdict in a multibillion-dollar products liability case. The scavenger hunt contestants are typically given a list of obscure objects to find (such as a legal pad or a takeout menu from a local Chinese restaurant), a number of trivia questions to answer (such as the firm’s address and, in some cases, its phone number) and a series of photographs to shoot (such as a picture of one of the associates holding said legal pad or calling to order Chinese takeout). Not only do these activities assist summer associates in recognizing items used in a lawyer’s daily practice and foster a team atmosphere, but it offers them an opportunity to win valuable recognition of their peers and the firm’s attorneys. A summer associate participating in this scavenger hunt may find himself out of the house for more than 12 hours — very similar to the average workday of a full-time associate at a typical law firm, large or small. There’s just no substitute for such training. MAXIMIZING YOUR TIME Summer associates will often be asked to juggle multiple projects at one time, each with its own particular deadline. For instance, a typical assignment may be to research a critically important question such as “How many copies can the firm’s largest copier produce before needing service?” The associate will then have to execute a number of photocopying “experiments,” compare them with the results of other copy machine “tests” and then develop a detailed report of her findings. The deadline for this might be something strict like “anytime before the end of the summer.” Another project may be to alphabetize highly privileged and confidential trial documents being sent to storage, due “whenever.” In addition to these crucial projects, this same lawyer-to-be may have a Broadway show, a golf outing and a cocktail party to attend in the same week. She may even be required to spend an hour or two (maybe even three) at lunch with different attorneys discussing the status of her various projects. And, presumably, she will have evening or weekend obligations (a beach house in the Hamptons — if a New York summer associate) in addition to her assignments at work. The purpose of these activities is to train the summer associate to manage her time like an attorney. Everyone may not agree with the harsh methods used to teach these lessons, but summer associates are certain to remember them if learned in this fashion. POLISHING YOUR SKILLS Speaking of remembering — aren’t you impressed when someone can select the perfect restaurant for lunch or dinner no matter where he is in a particular city? It is to enhance development of this skill that law firms strongly encourage attorneys to take summer associates out to lunch at least once, and sometimes twice, every day. Some firms even ask their summer associates to eat at fine restaurants on the weekend, just to keep up the momentum. Now that’s what I call an education! TALKING THE TALK Lawyers of any kind and at all levels need to develop strong skills in both giving and receiving instructions. For instance, a lawyer will often have to establish for a jury all of the elements of her case or demonstrate how the other side failed to prove its point. What better way to teach these techniques than to treat your summers to a luxurious cooking lesson from the likes of Emeril, with a gourmet dinner to follow? These lessons help new associates understand how to take instructions from partners and ask key questions concerning new assignments. Check the big copier — Bam! Lunch at 1:30 –Bam! Bam! Another notch!! THAT’S A WRAP The highly advanced utility of most summer associate programs may not be apparent to the untrained eye, but make no mistake — they are designed to teach the fundamental skills necessary to succeed in the practice of law. Do not be dissuaded by the rigor of those 10 weeks, however, because once you get an offer, it’s smooth sailing. The Disassociate is an anonymous, irreverent look at the humorous side of life as a law firm associate.

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