You’ve worked hard to get your summer associate position—but getting the job is just the beginning. It’s up to you to make the most of the opportunity now placed before you.
The following tips might seem like a lot to remember. Above all else, keep this in mind: learn from everyone you work with and in everything you do, and you will have a fun, rewarding summer.
Six tips for a successful summer internship
1. There is no such thing as a rough draft. Many attorneys will say, “Oh, just give me a draft of this by tomorrow.” Don’t believe them!!! Always put your best foot forward. Sure, they might make revisions to any document you give them, but always make sure the document you have turned in reflects the best of your abilities.
2. Your interview continues throughout the summer. No doubt about it–the firm is glad to have you, but you will be evaluated, both professionally and personally, throughout the summer. This advice extends to any and all social functions! Try to go to the majority of functions by yourself so that you can circulate with the attorneys rather than treating the event as an opportunity to go on a date. Some of the events might not seem like the most enjoyable way to spend your precious free time, but try to attend as many as possible.
A note regarding drinking: if everyone else is drinking during an after-hours event, you might consider having one, but only one, with them. Never drink or smoke during the day, no matter what anyone else is doing. Moreover, never feel pressure to drink if you are a teetotaler. People will not be upset if you stick to non-alcoholic beverages!
You will also find it quite common for attorneys to come up to you in the office and ask how your summer is going. Be enthusiastic! Let them know that you enjoy your work and your contacts with the attorneys there. Your enthusiasm will be contagious and will be remembered when the hiring committee is sitting down at the end of the summer to consider offers of permanent employment.
Your professional appearance and demeanor are important aspects of your evaluation. Business/professional attire is expected unless you are specifically instructed to dress casually. Invest in some professional outfits (including shoes). You need to dress as well as act the role.
3. Get to know the attorneys who do the type of work you hope to do as early as possible. If you already know the type of law you hope to practice or if you have identified a few areas of interest, make sure to introduce yourself to the attorneys in those areas. Express interest in working for them or on their projects, ask them about opportunities to tag-along or accompany them to court appearances.
Even if summer work assignments are coordinated by one staff member, getting to know attorneys in your area of interest can position you for the future. If you are supposed to report to one source (such as the recruitment coordinator) for your assignments, see if the attorney you hope to work for can route your assignment through that staff member.
Some firms match their summer associates with permanent associate “mentors” who are responsible for arranging lunches with other firm members. If you have a mentor, tell him/her that you are interested in meeting with attorneys in a particular practice area.
4. Ask for feedback rather than relying on others to get it for you. Many firms claim to offer great feedback during the summer. In reality, summer associate evaluations fall to the bottom of an attorney’s work pile. Don’t wait until your mid-summer or end of summer review to find out that someone was dissatisfied with your work. After completing every assignment, ask to speak with the assigning attorney and express your eagerness to receive constructive comments.
Even if you disagree with what is said, don’t discuss your feelings during the feedback session. This will give you more time to make any necessary changes and will also reflect well on your professionalism.
5. Stay out of office politics. Avoid gossiping about anyone in or out of the office, whether they are support staff, attorneys, or fellow summer associates. Remember to be especially thoughtful to secretaries.
6. Communicate, communicate, communicate. You might be working with more than one attorney on a particular project. In the event you are working with a partner and an associate on a deal, make sure that the left hand knows what the right hand is directing.
For example, a student was told by an associate not to complete a particular assignment given to her by a partner. The student did not confirm these instructions with the partner, who ended up faulting the student at the end of the summer for not completing the assignment. Avoid falling into a similar situation by verifying major instructions with the attorney who will be reviewing your work at the end of each project.