(Illustration by Jon Rienford)

What do summer associates need to know to succeed? Getting advice from someone who’s been there—recently—can help law students preparing to begin their summer jobs.

Eight of the large Texas firms that participated in Texas Lawyer’s 2014 Summer Associate Hiring Survey hired more Texas summer associates this year than they did in 2013. Research editor Jeanne Graham invited a first-year associate from each of the firms to share their advice, via email, for incoming summer associates. The first-year associates worked as summer associates at their respective firms.

Below are their emailed responses, edited for length and style.

Ashton Barrineau
Corporate associate
Akin Gump Strauss
Hauer & Feld

“The best advice I can give incoming summer associates is to develop genuine relationships with attorneys and staff. The summer associate program isn’t about a few weeks in the summer but about your future. Focusing on people in addition to work will provide you with a richer experience in the summer and with mentors to guide you not only in the summer, but also once you begin your career.”

Jennifer Cannan
Corporate and securities associate
Baker & McKenzie

“Summer associates should take advantage of all the practice areas in their law firm. Even if you are confident of the type of law you plan to practice, request work assignments from other practice groups. There is a wealth of knowledge and experience across all of the partners and associates at your law firm—embrace the opportunity to learn from them and broaden your understanding of the practice of law.”

Somer Hayes
Health care associate
Greenberg & Traurig

“In today’s economy, with summer associate positions being less abundant than they once were, it’s a privilege to be given this role. … Take advantage of every opportunity, and learn from the talented, experienced lawyers that surround you. Be available. Take advantage of every project that comes across your desk.

“Be eager and excited, and seek out every learning experience. One final note: Know how to act, know how to dress, err on the side of caution—this is not the time for an extreme fashion statement!”

Kevin Hess
Intellectual property litigation associate
McKool Smith

“Find a good mentor, even if it’s not the mentor you were assigned. Summer clerkships are filled with new and sometimes confusing assignments and experiences, so it’s important to find someone with whom you’re comfortable asking the dumb questions. Confidence and quality work product are key, and a good mentor can go a long way for both.

Lauren Munselle
Labor and employment associate
Haynes and Boone

“Obviously you want to produce sound work product, but also aim to make meaningful connections with the people you will encounter. Learn as much as you can about your fellow summer associates. As you meet the associates and partners who already work at the firm, try to remember some unique piece of information about each of them so you can build on that in future conversations. To keep track of all the people I met as a summer associate, it helped me to keep a notebook where I would write down what I learned about certain associates and partners from various conversations.”

Jillian Rae
Corporate/securities associate
Andrews Kurth

“Make an effort to get to know the associates and partners at the law firm. You’ve spent the last year or two proving your abilities at law school, and you’ve obviously done a great job, because a law firm is interested in hiring you—so relax! The summer is an opportunity to get to know the people who could be your future colleagues. It is a chance to build relationships with the people who will be teaching you the ins and outs of practicing law and who will be working late with you to get a deal done or a motion filed. Although it may feel intimidating, don’t be afraid to stop by a partner’s office for a chat or ask an associate to grab a cup of coffee. Remember that the attorneys genuinely want to get to know you too!”

Austin Thomas
Tax associate
Baker Botts

“I think that learning about the personalities and working habits of the lawyers at your firm is the most important thing you can do as a summer associate. Engaging fully in the social activities throughout the summer will help you decide whether the firm is a good fit for you, and also will help you get hired by letting attorneys outside of your section get to know you.”

Stephanie Tso
Mergers and acquisitions associate
Norton Rose Fulbright

“Treat your summer as if it were a six-week networking event. Regardless of whether you end up with the firm where you clerk, you have a unique opportunity to make lasting connections and impressions. The people that you will encounter on a daily basis may become your future colleagues, clients or opposing counsel, so it is important to be proactive—reaching out to partners and associates alike—and make the most of that opportunity.”