Makenzie Way, 3L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School
Summer associate lifestyle
If you come from a lower or middle-class family, the summer associate lifestyle may be a shock, so mentally prepare yourself so you’re ready when the time comes for you to purchase that $30+ salad. Though you chose your firm during the OCI process, they are, to a certain extent, still trying to sell you on the firm – don’t trick yourself into thinking you’ll continue your summer associate lifestyle upon returning to the firm.
Firms and geographic offices differ according to how they conduct their summer programs.
Large New York firms or head offices of a firm generally receive the largest summer budgets, meaning they are able to host more large-scale or ‘luxurious’ events compared to smaller firms or offices.
Regardless of where you are, if you’re at a big law firm you’re in for a treat! The firm wants you to choose them, therefore they want you to meet people within the firm who will sell you on the firm and/or practice group. As a result, attorneys are incentivized to take summers to lunches and coffees as frequently as possible. Personally, I attended a lunch or coffee every day of the summer program.
As a cautionary note, don’t be afraid to block some time off for yourself.
Though lunches are a great networking opportunity, and you should do your best not to cancel lunches or reject partner lunches, it’s not expected that you eat out every single day of the summer, they understand that it gets old. For instance, for the first two weeks of the summer, I was ecstatic to be eating at the best restaurants in my city nonstop. I upped my Starbucks order from a small to a large, and threw in a bakery item for good measure because I wasn’t footing the bill. Around week four, however, I began to miss my homecooked meals … who would have thought? I also questioned whether I was antisocial, or lacking in some essential vitamin. The daily lunches and coffee breaks that had at first seemed so stimulating, now seemed to drain me. After talking to other summers, I realized it wasn’t just me, we all felt that way! Being ‘on’ 24/7 was wearing us down. So we took it upon ourselves to arrange a few summer-associate only lunches to revive ourselves.
Training events and workshops
Outside of individually planned lunches with attorneys, there are also a number of training events and workshops that you are expected to attend.
As a general rule of thumb, any event that begins or runs through lunch will include food. The training opportunities were all-encompassing, ranging from IT training, mailroom services, file room overview, research training, and practice group-specific training. Likewise, the workshops were divided nicely between the practice groups in an effort to ensure there was something for everyone. I would suggest taking notes in these sessions for your own use during the summer. Though, don’t exhaust yourself trying to memorize everything since you’ll receive more in-depth training when you return.
Networking type events
Firms also host a number of networking type events to provide summers an opportunity to network within the firm. Many of these events are optional, but I would highly suggest attending them all if possible! Partners and associates appreciate summers who attend non-mandatory events; it makes you stand out. It’s a great way to increase your workflow or your odds of being placed in a certain practice group after the summer ends.
Stepping outside of the firm walls, the official summer events are outstanding!
Most firms aim to host four to five events for the summer associate class. At my firm, our events included a cooking class for the summers and partners; a 5k fun run; a service day at a soup kitchen; a Broadway show; a baseball game; trivia; a paint night; and a farewell party at a rooftop bar in the city.
The best part of the summer associate experience, however, was the unofficial events. By unofficial I mean the after-work drinks with your fellow summers (and maybe an associate or two), the donut runs with your office mate, the weekend beach trips with work friends, and the early morning breakfast dates with your fellow hungry, and possibly hungover, colleagues.