Today, guest blogger and former lawyer Grover Cleveland, author of Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: The Essential Guide to Thriving as a New Lawyer (West 2010), offers advice to anxious summer associates about snagging that offer.
How to Turn Your Summer Position Into a Full-Time Offer
By Grover E. Cleveland
As you start your stint as a summer associate, focus first on what will happen at the end of the summer. That’s when the members of the hiring committee will reflect on your time at the firm. While your photo is displayed on a screen, the lawyers are likely to discuss: whether any senior attorneys said you screwed up their projects, whether you were personable and got along with other lawyers and staff, whether you displayed any poor judgment, whether you worked hard and seemed enthusiastic, and whether you showed initiative and added value. If you keep these factors in mind throughout the summer, you will be a step ahead.
Now, let's get specific about what you should and should not do:
1. Always find out at least these five things about a new project:
• The client and billing number
• The exact problem that you are being asked to solve
• About how much time the attorney thinks you should spend on the project
• How the attorney wants you to provide the information, and
• The deadline
2. Have the right attitude: Take the job seriously and work hard. Despite the perks, your summer position is not summer camp. Firms want to know that you are enthusiastic about your work and that you work hard.
3. Don't forget you are part of a business. As a participant in a business enterprise, your work for a client has to be useful, look professional, be completed within a reasonable amount of time, and cost an amount that the client is willing to pay. Keep all of this in mind as you complete your projects.
4. Prepare your documents as if they are final drafts. Senior lawyers will check your work, but they don’t want to fix your work unless they have to. They will also expect that they are getting your best work. Make your documents as polished as you can before turning them in. Lawyers will assume that over time you will become more efficient. They are not likely to assume that you will become more careful or more diligent.
5. Work to be efficient. Plan your project before you dive in. Ask about resources that could be useful, including samples of similar assignments. Keep track of your research so that you don’t till the same ground again and again, and try to come up with a working hypothesis early in the process. If it appears that you may significantly exceed the amount of time the senior lawyer estimated for the project, check in well before that happens.
6. Never, ever, ever cut your own time. In a misguided attempt to seem efficient, some summer associates fail to record all of the time they spend on projects. Don’t do that. Ever.
7. Be sociable. When the “end of summer” discussion takes place, the more people who can say they had a positive interaction with you, the better. Make an effort to introduce yourself to other lawyers both at social events and during the workday. You’ll get bonus points if you show that you learned something about the lawyer’s practice before saying, “hello.”
8. Think first. Judgment errors trip up some summer associates every year. Although career-limiting moves come in countless varieties, thinking before you act will keep most of them at bay. For example, at firm social events, go easy on the sauce. My book recounts the story of one summer associate who, caught up in the euphoria of free booze, offered massages to partners at a firm retreat. The offers were not well received.
9. Be on time; be respectful. Irksome behavior is the first cousin of poor judgment. As Paul Hastings partner Leigh Ryan, the firm’s global chair of attorney recruiting, told The Careerist, goofs like showing up late for meetings or using your mobile device during meetings (or chewing gum) will not endear you to senior lawyers.
10. Show initiative and add value. Firms want lawyers to be self-starters. Try to anticipate senior lawyer needs and focus on ways you can be more helpful. If you have an idea that could be particularly useful, raise it with the senior lawyer.
You can reach Grover Cleveland at www.swimminglessonsforbabysharks.com or on Twitter @babysharklaw.
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