With the slew of law firms closing one after another and the dubious Great Recovery in place of the Great Recession the definition of a “perfect summer associate job” has, of course, changed quite a bit. Depending upon your inclinations, even a non-paying summer job in the government sector may be great for you if it meets your career objectives. But, for the sake of this article, we would be assuming the ‘perfect summer associate' job to be the job of a
in a private law firm of middle-to-big stature, and one that would almost cement your chances of getting recruited after your J.D.
Research about your prospective employers
First, of course, comes your grade and specific knowledge of the law firms in your area that offer summer associate programs. You'd get to know a lot about these opportunities from the law school's career office itself. You can also learn about the cultures of specific law firms and their practice areas from senior students, alumni, law firm websites and the news. One of my favorite techniques, after I decide upon a few law firms for a prospective associate, is to do a Google news search with the name of the law firms within quotes. It can turn up a surprising amount of information about the law firms and help to make an informed decision.
Find a law firm that has opportunities in areas of your interest
Next, the choice of the law firm should be influenced by your personal career objectives, if there is scope to accommodate them in your choice. Just jumping for a big law firm may not yield results always. If the target is to learn, and also to create a future job opportunity, small to middle-level law firms are a choice that should not be neglected. Broaden your choices and try to home in on those law firms whose practice areas are aligned with the branches of law that you enjoy.
Cover the basics
Creating a presentable resume and cover letter is of course an essential step, as also networking and placing your resumes in the hands of people who matter. As a law student, you'd be treated as
and the stereotype is going to affect you. Learn to meet the best expectations of that stereotype, and avoid the not-so-appreciated attributes. As Generation Y, you are expected to be a team-worker, to be tech-savvy, and to be a multi-tasker – improve yourself to fulfill those expectations. Also as Generation Y, people would be expecting you to be impatient and attention-craving – emphasize your difference from the stereotype as far as negative attributes are concerned.
The best may not be the best for you
Research the law firms you are going to apply for. It wasn't a pleasant surprise for the summer associates of Dewey, who had given up opportunities at other law firms to suddenly learn that their positions were gone. While it is difficult to predict the future, any law firm with a non-traditional approach at finances can be a candidate for sudden disaster despite its size or reputation. Too good may not always be good enough.
Stress on soft skills
Brush up your
to ace the interview. There may be little you can do to change what is already in your resume, but when grades and career objectives form a tie with other candidates, personality carries the day. Most big law firms put a premium on unassuming people with pleasing personalities who are out to ‘learn.' On the contrary, most good law firms would like to avoid candidates who already know too much.
Avoid trying to be a hard-hitter, avoid stale jokes, avoid informal attitudes, avoid trying to be chummy with law firm recruiters, and avoid trying to impress with a flow of encyclopedic knowledge. Answer questions to the point, and don't drag explanations to elaborate things when elaboration is not required. Focus on your excitement at the opportunity to learn, and the fact that your career objectives match the practice areas of the law firm for which you are trying for a summer associate position. Usually, that's almost all you can do to get a perfect summer associate position, except for recommendations from a big law firm client whom your family happens to know.