Every year on or about Dec. 1, recruiting coordinators at large law firms around the country brace for an avalanche of hundreds or sometimes thousands of resumes and cover letters from eager and hopeful first-year law students seeking lucrative summer associate positions. The resumes, we career services folks hope, have been crafted to best highlight undergraduate and post-undergraduate experience and achievements. The cover letters, again we hope, have been carefully drafted to avoid boilerplate and to emphasize the skills the student can bring to a summer associate position. Certainly, students need well-written cover letters and resumes. My concern is more with the object of the frantic pre-finals flurry of resume bond paper.
The likelihood of a student actually landing one of these first-year summer associate positions is very small — slightly better if one is at a top-ranked law school, has a technical background or is a member of the too-small pipeline of diverse students. Large firms are leery of hiring first-years as summer associates because they are expensive and, usually, end up taking the permanent offer from their second summer employer. Geographical ties may make it easier to land one of these jobs but are no guarantee.