Summer associate jobs are a natural first step for law school students to "try out" different law firms. These positions are at the bottom of the law firm's management hierarchy and are intended for law school students who have completed at least two years of law school.
This is an intern position and because the associates are still in law school, they have not passed the bar exam in their state yet. These employees are often called summer clerks or law clerks.
This is a highly competitive position and while internships may be unpaid in smaller firms, there is often a salary associated with a position in a larger firm. Many firms use this avenue as a way to also try out potential employees, and upon a successful summer, may offer full time employment upon graduation. In fact, there are firms that use this intern program as their primary recruiting tool for new hires.
Because this is such a highly competitive arena, a summer associate needs to understand that every movement over the summer will be critiqued and analyzed by other attorneys. In fact, summer associates should look at the summer months as an extended interview. Treat every event, every encounter as a part of that long term interview.
It's important to find a mentor in the law firm. While it's important to get to know everybody, it's equally advisable to find someone that can show you the ropes in the firm. This is a great way to get to know the culture of the firm. In addition, summer clerks should have someone proofread their work and provide guidance. The mentor - and others - can provide invaluable feedback. A smart summer associate will digest all forms of feedback, criticism and compliment alike, and redirect his or her actions in accordance with this feedback.
Over the summer, a competent law clerk will notate every rule and ensure that no corners are cut. This may be as simple as making sure to adhere to the dress code or not sneaking out five minutes early before the weekend.
As the economy struggles to recover from the recession, law firms may still be cutting back on summer intern jobs. However, there are still options available for this invaluable job experience.