Getting a BigLaw Summer Associate Job: All You Need to Know

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Summary: Do you want to be considered next year for a biglaw summer associate job? Find out how to get a summer associate job and how to survive this opportunity.
Find out all you need to know about working as a biglaw summer associate in this article.

For most law school students, the dream is to be offered a high-paying job before graduation; but that feat can only happen if law students participate in summer associate programs, those coveted 10-weeks of paid law firm training that students fight tooth and nail over. For those lucky enough to have snagged one this year, congratulations; but for those seeking a summer associate position in the future, this is a handy guide to everything you need to know.

See the following articles for more information:
When do summer associate programs start?

Most Big Law offices started their summer associate programs on May 15th of this year and will end on July 21st. Those dates are of course flexible by location, but generally, summer associate programs start mid-May and finish at the end of July.

How much are summer associates paid?

Most large law firms adhere to an industry standard when it comes to paying their summer associates, and the typical pay is around $3,500/a week.

How do law firms find summer associates to hire?

Most law firms recruit summer associates through on-campus interviews at top law schools. While this is great for those who attend Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, etc., what about students who want a chance at a BigLaw job but aren’t at a Tier One school? According to Brenda Dieck, a partner for White & Case LLP, the firm mostly recruits on-campus but also accepts referrals and applications.

Besides outstanding academic credentials and personal accomplishments, we are looking for summer associates who are self-motivated, achievement-oriented, open-minded, highly collaborative and entrepreneurial,” Dieck said. “We look for people who will thrive in a fast-paced, collaborative environment, strive to give their personal best and are inspired by the success of others. They must have an intellectual curiosity about the world as a whole and want to make a difference, for clients and in their communities.”

Dieck said that students who were not recruited on campus can try networking to land a summer associate position, and this includes attending legal panels, attending firm events, reaching out to alumni, and participating in mock interviews and then following up with lawyers that you meet.

What are law firms looking for when it comes to who they hire as summer associates?

First and foremost, law firms look at academic credentials and your past career experience; but they are also looking for people who will flourish within the firm’s culture.

“When we make hiring decisions, we look for lawyers who will thrive in our dynamic environment,” a spokesperson from Winston & Strawn LLP told us. “Strong academic credentials are important – including law journal, extracurricular efforts and volunteer activities – as well as past career experience. We seek well-rounded, motivated, imaginative people who will work hard for our clients, and work well with others on the team. A connection and true reflection of a student’s personality from the on-set of the relationship with the firm is among the most important factors in evaluation, hiring and retaining talent.”

What should law students look for when choosing a summer associate program?

The successful completion of an associate program usually leads to a full-time offer, so law students should consider where they want to begin their careers when picking a program. However, this decision-making process isn’t easy because law firms do their best to lure the best, and this includes everything from giving away coveted Hamilton tickets to hosting extravagant parties. While these perks are hard to pass up, students should also look at long-term benefits such as a mentoring program or other forms of career investment.

For instance, Hogan Lovells teams summer associates with mentors and also organizes events so that they can build relationships with attorneys and their cohorts.

“Summer associates learn from both partner and associate mentors and the many others who involve themselves in the summer program. All offices have social events that allow students to get to know firm lawyers and each other. Most offices host Citizenship Events with firm community investment partners. All US summer associates attend a retreat in Washington DC where firm leaders share their insights about the firm's vision and values, management, strategic plans for the future, firm finances, our commitment to diversity, and our leading practices. Summer associates get to know their classmates through small group dinners and fun team-building exercises,” a spokesperson for Hogan Lovells said.

What is a summer associate program like?

While law firms throw in the aforementioned perks, summer associate programs are also a time for law students to dive into substantive work and get quality hands-on training. This includes everything from billable and pro bono work, and summer associates can spend their hours writing briefs, motions, and client memoranda or taking part in a corporate transaction. Additionally, BigLaw firms tend to have multiple offices, and summer associates often collaborate with them on cases. Sometimes they are even flown cross-country or overseas.
Are summer associate programs looking for diversity?

The dearth of minorities and women in law firms has been studied extensively, and law firms have made active efforts to recruit more diversely, which includes expanding its pool of schools where they recruit and increasing the numbers of females in management. For the 2017 summer associate class, Hogan Lovells’ New York City office had 68% women and 39% diversity.

“This year’s summer associate class is one of the most diverse we have had in our New York office and also is two-thirds women,” said Hogan Lovells’ partner Phoebe Wilkinson. “Our summer associates are a group of high-performing individuals from different schools, backgrounds, perspectives and life experiences that we believe complement our firm’s commitment to creating a diverse, welcoming and interesting work environment. Our numbers not only reflect the increase in the number of women graduating from law school, they also reflect our efforts to attract and retain female talent at all levels.”

How many summer associates get full-time offers upon their graduation?

Most law firms nowadays aim to have a 100% full-time job offer rate for summer associates. This stat makes them more appealing to future talent, so for the most part, you just need to get into the program, do a good job, and you should be rewarded with that $180,000 starting salary once you graduate. Good luck!

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