As you prepare to take the next step in your legal career as a summer associate, we have collected some advice from Akin Gump’s former summer associates:
Relationship Building is Key.
- Your fellow summer associates are not competition. One of Akin Gump’s core values is collegiality and a part of that is working well in teams. It is more important to display this trait rather than trying to one-up someone.
- During the summer, attending events and talking to new people are just as important as the assignments you get. The firm hosts events so you can get to know people in the office, and they can get to know you! Spend as much time getting to know the people in your office as you do on your assigned work.
- As an associate, there generally are not assignments to choose from. Most of the work, especially as you progress through your career, is assigned in an organic way. The more personal and professional relationships you build over the summer, especially with lawyers in the group you would like to work, the more opportunities you are likely to have when you return. Plus, these same networking skills can translate to the client world later in one’s career (so the summer events are good practice).
Your Summer Is An Unparalleled Learning Opportunity.
- The more experiences you get as a summer associate, the better-rounded your view of the firm will be. Don’t be afraid to get outside your comfort zone and take projects from a variety of different practice groups, even if you think you know the area in which you want to practice. Learning about the firm’s clients from many different types of matters will give you a better understanding of the firm in general.
- Being open to a variety of diverse work streams and lawyers will stimulate meaningful questions that, without such experiences, you might not have thought to ask. Accepting any and all opportunities presented to you as a summer associate is the key to making the most of your summer experience.
- Always solicit feedback from those reviewing your work. Use the summer assignments as an opportunity to develop your skills.
- Be on time! It sounds very simple, but you’d be shocked how many summer associates are late to meetings and events.
- Always bring a pen and a notebook to meetings—junior members of a team are expected to take notes and sometimes instructions come at you fast!
- Remember that the summer program—like law school—is a professional endeavor. Act professional at all times, regardless of who is around.
- Be responsive with your emails and phone calls. Even a simple “will do” or “I’m on it” is sufficient. You don’t need to wait until you have the answer ready to respond. Responsiveness helps build trust with partners and more senior associates and shows eagerness to be a part of the project/matter.
Don’t be Afraid to Speak Up.
- Make a point to talk to partners about what they do. As a summer associate, you may be hesitant to reach out because you want to avoid bothering partners during normal business hours. However, find time that works for them—they are open to questions and appreciate interest from the summer associates. If they’re too busy to chat, they’ll tell you so and be open to you coming back at another time.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The lawyers know that as a summer associate you are still learning. It’s okay to ask! However, make sure you’ve thought through the questions in advance to stay focused. Preparedness shows initiative on your part, and that you are a self-starter who tries to work through problems on your own.
- Don’t be shy about asking people to lunch. And make sure to vary who you ask—you’ll want to get to know as many people as you can.
- Communicate. If you have a time conflict or are struggling to meet a deadline or need to leave for an event, communicating these things with the people you are working with is key so they can manage their work flow and yours.