Careers > Students > Legal Scoop
21 May '18

You studied hard during your first year of law school, impressed firms during the interview process and landed a position as a summer associate. Congratulations! However, it is important to remember that the effort you put forth and the connections you make this summer are equally important to your future legal career.

In this post, we will provide you with tips on how to make the most of your summer program.

Know what is expected; if you do not—ask questions.

Doing your job well requires understanding what is expected of you:

  • Make sure you understand the form of the final deliverable and the amount of time that the assigning lawyer expects it to take. Doing so will help you avoid performing exhaustive research on what should have been only a brief email, or turning in an assignment that is half the length that it should have been.
  • Always submit your best work product the first time around—even if you have been asked for only a draft. It should be fully edited for spelling and grammatical errors, it should be correctly formatted, and citations should be verified.
  • Clarify how the assigning lawyer prefers to communicate about the project. Some lawyers may not mind if you stop by their office to ask a quick question, get feedback or get to know them better, while others might have a strong preference for emails and scheduled appointments.
  • If you are unsure of what is expected—do not be afraid to ask! Clarifying expectations will save you time and frustration.

Be professional

Your time as a summer associate is ultimately an extended job interview, so do not forget to handle yourself in a professional manner at all times:

  • Meet expected deadlines. If you cannot meet a deadline, be sure to communicate that early.
  • Treat everyone at the firm, not just the partners reviewing your work, with courtesy and respect. Remember: Secretaries, recruiters, paralegals and other business service personnel play a role in the success of the firm. Being friendly to everyone—and thanking them for their help—will go a long way. As an added bonus, they are the ones who are most likely to help you navigate the ins and outs of the firm.
  • Accept criticism, own your mistakes and learn from them. Everyone knows that you are in the early stage of your legal career, so do not take criticism personally. Feedback is an opportunity to improve your work product and professional development.
  • Do not speak negatively about assignments or people, even to fellow summer associates. Doing so can make you appear inflexible and difficult to get along with, both of which are important factors when evaluating whether to make an offer to join the firm permanently.
  • Use common courtesy. Do not be late to meetings or use your phone during meetings or social events, even if it is for work. If you must take a work call, step away to a private space to do so quickly. Return all calls and answer all emails promptly.
  • Use good judgment and enjoy yourself in moderation. Social events are meant to be fun, of course, but acting maturely goes a long way to show that you will be able to handle yourself well in front of future clients.

Be Social

The summer program is certainly not all work and no play. Remember to attend the social events and enjoy yourself. Most importantly, use these events as an opportunity to build relationships with lawyers who can help guide you in your career:

  • Clear your calendar. When the recruiting team organizes events, or a lawyer invites you to coffee or lunch, go. These events are an invaluable opportunity to get to know your potential future colleagues.
  • Step out of your comfort zone. Walk up and start a conversation with a lawyer that you have not met before. Social events are held precisely so that you can do so, and, besides, you never know what great assignment or networking opportunities could come from it.
  • Reach out. Whether it is to a mentor that the firm assigned to you, or someone who is working on a project in which you are interested, do not be afraid to invite them to coffee and get to know them, their work and their experience at the firm. Ask them questions about why they chose their practice group and whether it turned out to be what they expected to better inform your own decisions.

Use the program to begin shaping your career

Use your time as a summer associate to experiment and develop new skills:

  • Take advantage of training programs. While law school has taught you a lot, the practical training you will receive during your summer program will teach you to apply your knowledge in a law firm setting. Training itself may also lead to new legal interests that you never knew you had.
  • Do not be afraid to try new things. Even if you have your heart set on being a litigator, be adventurous, step outside your comfort zone and take assignments in different practice areas. One assignment can change the direction of your career.
  • Be proactive. If there is an assignment that you really want, or a partner with whom you would really like to work, make it known. Firms are generally happy to offer you the experience that you seek.
  • Pay close attention to the culture of the firm and its practice groups, and be honest with yourself about how you might fit in. Be sure that it is a good fit for you.

Ultimately, you should use your time as a summer associate to better understand the law firm and your potential future place within it. Ask yourself what practice group you will be a part of, who might act as an invaluable mentor and what kind of work you see yourself doing in the future. Make sure you understand the culture of the firm, the people with whom you will be working, and what it is really like to work at the firm…and have fun!

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08 May '18

Final exams are coming to an end, and you are looking forward to finally having the opportunity to apply everything you have learned these last two years in law school to assisting real clients on real cases. You already know that you are in for a great summer filled with fun events and networking opportunities. This summer will allow you to hone your legal skills, focus your career interests, learn about the culture of the firm you are joining and build relationships with mentors who can help develop your career.

Like anything, your time as a summer associate will be what you make of it. Click here for a list of tips to start your legal career off on the right foot and make the most of your summer associate position.

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26 Apr '18

Finishing Strong: Test-Taking Strategies for Finals

It’s the second semester of the school year and you’re determined to finish strong. Whether you’re hoping to continue your streak of acing your exams or your prior semester’s grades were a signal that something needs to change, we’re here to provide you with tips and advice for ending the year on a high note.

In this post, we will provide you with some strategies on how to study, prepare, and master your finals.

Self-Reflect on What Worked—and What Didn’t

Approaching finals season means that you have completed at least one semester of exams, which also means that you have a huge advantage this time around: hindsight! Before the reading period begins, take a moment to reflect upon what worked and what didn’t work. Examining the different ways you studied for each class will help identify what successfully translated into great grades. Perhaps in retrospect the class in which you used a particular study group was too distracting, or the exam for which you prepared using pre-written outlines didn’t go as well as anticipated. Analyzing what methods were most and least successful during the last test-taking season should help you decide which tips you might want to adopt for the upcoming final round of exams.

Outline Advice

Finals season is outline overload. You know from last semester that a plethora of outlines may be available through a variety of sources, but our best advice is to start with writing your own before relying on the ones provided by friends or study groups. Keep the following in mind for composing your best outlines:

  • Start early. If possible, build your outlines as you go throughout the semester. This will allow you to have adequate time to draft, tweak, and study them along the way. This will also free up time during your reading period.
  • Write, supplement, narrow. An effective outline goes through stages. Draft it personally to organize your thoughts and retain the content. Afterward, review your outline with a study group or compare it to an available outline to find the holes you didn’t realize existed. Finally, narrow it to just a few pages—keeping the material manageable and yourself free from getting bogged down in the minutiae.

Practice Exams

To best maximize your reading period, take as many practice exams as possible. Using a variety of sources for the questions and practicing them in an assortment of ways will ensure that you are not surprised on exam day.

  • Find the best practice tests. As you know from last semester, your professor’s prior exams are a great resource. To supplement these and bring your prep to the next level, reach out to former students and members of your law school clubs for their old exams. To keep you on your toes, have your study group come up with new and unique questions to work through together.
  • Timing is everything. Running out of time is a rookie mistake which you don’t want to make this semester! While taking a practice exam without any time restriction has its benefits, making sure you can succinctly complete your work in the allotted time is important. Try to complete the majority of your practice exams under real world test conditions.

Day of Tips

On the day of the exam, you may be tempted to express everything and anything you know about the law. As a more seasoned test-taker, you should take the time to focus on the issue at hand, remember your audience, and logically express your answer.

  • A limited world. Before diving in, keep in mind the class you are in and the audience to whom you are writing. A tort law exam will only ask you to apply tort rules and standards to the fact pattern, and furthermore only those that the professor or teaching assistants have indicated are takeaways from the semester. No need to overwhelm the reader or yourself with superfluous information.
  • Ready, set, pause, go. You may remember from last semester’s exams the overwhelming feeling to start immediately and not “waste” a minute. However, pausing to plan may allow you to come up with answers to the deeper issues, rather than just the surface points.
  • Be prepared. Have snacks, a full battery and earplugs. You know from last semester how stressful the day of exams can be. Plan ahead and bring along your non-test-taking essentials. An experienced test-taker has a casual outfit and a favorite treat ready to go. Having your own routine for exam day keeps you calm, comfortable, and focused.

Prep by Not Prepping

Your reading period is packed with outlines, practice exams, and overzealous classmates. Make sure to also allow time for rest, meals, and breathing. Remember that you made it to law school and survived last season’s exams. Study and prepare, but also remind yourself that you can do it!

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03 Apr '18

There is a lot of information out there that paints a negative picture of big law, but do not let the myths sway you when making a decision about your future career.  The best way to avoid making an incorrect career decision is to educate yourself and gather information to form your own opinion.  Before taking the next step in making a career move, make sure you dig deeper into your research and conduct informational interviews to get all the facts.  This post explores a few of the myths that currently exist regarding big law and provides suggestions on some of the facts to take into consideration.

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20 Mar '18

You do not have to look hard to find an abundance of research, data, rankings, insight and opinions about the legal industry and specifically large law firms. While much of what is published is positive there can be information that paints a negative picture of careers in big law. As a result students can easily find themselves sorting through a mountain of information to drill-down on what it is truly like to practice in law firms. During the research process it is important for students to examine their research from different angles and to be knowledgeable of common misconceptions about a career in the industry. Click here for a recommended reading piece that outlines some of the typical facts versus fiction about a career in big law.

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08 Mar '18

Third-party annual reports often provide a snapshot of the legal industry’s performance and status in a given year. Readers can use these publications to check the pulse of the legal industry as a whole, as well as to learn more about individual law firms. 

As soon-to-be lawyers, consider this post to be a springboard that you can use to dive into annual reports and identify the information that is valuable to you as you enter the legal market.

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23 Feb '18

Research: a staple of law school life that usually has students either cringing or gleefully uncapping their highlighters.  Why not exercise your hard-earned skills by researching the legal market and the law firms that comprise it to gain a better understanding of the big picture? Explore year-end reports to learn about what is happening in the legal market now and what is coming down the pike.  Take a look at what the data can tell you about current trends in the industry and what skills firms will be looking for in future attorney hires.

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