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Getting a great job is one thing, but doing a great job is another. It’s not luck and there’s nothing intuitive about it. Successful people, whether they realize it or not, do exactly what I’m going to tell you to do in this book. If you follow the advice you read here, you will impress the heck out of people— and you’ll enjoy yourself a lot more because you’ll know exactly what you have to do to succeed. That’s all there is to it.
What we’re going to do in this section is to make sure that you don’t do anything that tanks your chances with your summer clerkship employer, no matter who you work for. In a lot of important ways, you should approach your summer clerkship the same way you’d approach your first "permanent" job after law school! Turning in the best possible work product, acting and dressing professionally, not getting crocked at employer social events—that’s good advice whether you’re going to be there for ten weeks or ten years.
But having said that, there are important differences between summer clerkships and permanent jobs. The summer is a kind of professional mating ritual. The employer is checking you out, and, just as importantly, you’re checking out the employer. Let’s see how you should handle it!
A. KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE: REMEMBER THE GOAL Of YOUR SUMMER CLERKSHIP.
You want to be invited back. That’s it. You want an offer. Everything in this chapter steers you to that goal. If you don’t like any of the individual things I’ll suggest that you do, I recommend a trick that they teach people at Alcoholics Anonymous: Look past the drink. If you hate the idea of dressing to conform with people at work, or stopping with one beer at parties, or having to hold your tongue around clients or putting in a late night now and then—look past your immediate preference to your ultimate goal: Getting an offer. If you get an offer, you can always make the decision not to come back if you decide you really don’t want it. But to the extent you control the situation, put yourself in the driver’s seat!
If your summer job won’t result in an offer—it’s for an employer with no permanent openings, for instance, or for an employer that doesn’t hire new graduates—treat it the same way. What you’ll be going after instead of an offer is a stellar reference, and perhaps even help and connections to a permanent job. So you’ll want to follow the advice here as well!
B. BE AWARE OF WHAT EMPLOYERS ARE LOOKING FOR: THE TOP EIGHT HIT LIST
1. Excellent “output”—whether it be written assignments or oral advocacy or dealing with clients. For written projects, show your ability not just to write but also to research and give strong legal analyses. For oral advocacy projects (typically for prosecutors), show your ability to think quickly on your feet and handle pressure.
2. Good judgment—the ability to act and dress appropriately and deal sensibly with situations as they arise. One lawyer told me about a firm where a summer clerk house-sat for a senior partner while the partner was away on vacation, and the partner came back early to find that the associate had adorned statues in the garden with the partner’s underclothes. I’m not suggesting that you need to be Solomon-like, but don’t be an idiot
3. Enthusiasm for the projects you do and for the employer itself. When faced with choosing between summer clerks for permanent offers, employers will take the clerk who shows the most interest in them.
4. Flexibility—the willingness to accommodate different work styles, personalities, and tasks.
5. Appreciation of the opportunity to work with the employer.
6. The ability to get along with support staff and colleagues—to “fit in.”
7. An understanding of what the organization’s goals are—whether it’s a business (like a law firm) or any other kind of service provider (like a government agency or public interest employer), and respect the fact that even if your employer is a charity, it’s not a charity for you—you’ve got a role to play in helping the organization reach its goals.
8. Realistic expectations of what work is, and what you can expect from it. Show that you don’t expect the employer to fulfill all of your expectations.
LAWCROSSING JOB SEARCH ADVICE
A career services director told me about a student of hers who made an unbelievable impression on his summer employer. He's a textbook example of how to be a great summer clerk, so much so that the firm he worked for called the career services director and thanked her for "sending us such an outstanding student."
What stood out about this particular clerk? The firm listed several things. "Number one, he had a shining personality, he was a very upbeat person. Even when he was down personally, he came in smiling. When we asked him, 'How are things going?' he'd respond, They're great!' He'd encourage us. He'd say, 'I know you've worked hard. Is there anything I can do to help you? Any research I can do for you?' We were amazed by his generosity of spirit. He'd offer assistance whenever he saw a busy person. Even though he didn't have to stay at night, he'd be willing to once in a while to help out.
"Then there was his great work product. It was just outstanding. But it wasn't so much that he was born a great researcher. He would go to older associates and ask, 'I know you worked for this person. What are they like? What do they look for?' He'd know in advance what every attorney wanted, what their styles were. It made his good work stand out. He went the extra mile.
"When he got assignments, he'd get clarification, but not to the point of being a nuisance. He checked with each attorney and said, 'This is my understanding of what you want.' He got feedback that way.
"He particularly volunteered in areas that he liked, things he was good at. He was a chemical engineer and coming to us he knew he wanted to do some IP. He called associates who'd been with us the previous summer and asked them for the inside scoop, which they were happy to share with him.
"As he moved from department to department at our firm, his reputation preceded him to the next department in his rotation. His whole attitude breathed, 'I'll do whatever it takes for all of us to succeed.'"
"Even though he's got two years of law school left, we'd take him back in a heartbeat."
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