How to Ensure to Get an Offer By the End of the Summer

If only you were a summer associate three years ago, right? In those days, the economy was super charged and law firms were scrambling for extra bodies, hiring dozens of new lawyers from their summer programs. This year, of course, things are different. The economy's uncertain and, as a result, firms have slowed their hiring considerably, which puts pressure on summer associates already nervous about getting a permanent offer. But don't despair. We've got some tips for increasing your chances of heading back to school with an offer in your back pocket.

No matter what the economy, firms evaluate summer associates on three major criteria. They want to know that 1) you can do the work, 2) you'll represent the firm well to clients, judges, opposing counsel and the community, and 3) you'll be a pleasure to work with. Your goal this summer is to make sure that when offers are divvied up, the firm answers affirmatively on all counts with respect to you. Let's go through them individually.

The Work

Rest assured, law firms don't expect summer associates to know everything about law practice. But they do want to know that you can think analytically and write clearly. With every project -- even those assignments that seem trivial -- be diligent and demonstrate a willingness to work hard. Sloppiness and laziness are kisses of death for summer associates.

When being assigned a new project, ask lots of questions. Chances are, your questions will help the assigning lawyers better define and refine what they're asking you to do. Ask questions like: What's the end product you're expecting -- a memo or simple conversation? How much time do you expect me to spend? Do you have any suggestions for where to start? Once you embark on the project, keep the attorney informed of your progress, especially if it's taking longer than originally estimated. In general, if you encounter major problems with certain assignments or feel overloaded with work, keep in close contact with your attorney mentor and the recruiting coordinator.

Always demonstrate a professional attitude, even if you're asked to make photocopies or fax a document. After all, if you do those tasks poorly, the attorneys will assume you'll do the same with a brief. And even if you find a project woefully boring, put on your summer associate game face and do it enthusiastically.

Also, even if you're convinced you want to be a trial lawyer, be sure to take projects in all the firm's departments -- not just the sexy litigation and corporate departments, but also smaller groups like real estate, bankruptcy, and yes, even tax. This strategy of demonstrating your abilities to multiple groups will help recession proof you this summer.

Representing the Firm

During the summer, you're being evaluated not just in work situations and but also at social events like parties, picnics and other outings. At these functions, never over-drink, tell offensive jokes or engage in sexual behavior. (These tips seem obvious, but could we tell you stories...)

Remember, it's all about appearances this summer. Obviously, don't try to be someone you're not. But you do expect to be professional once you get that "Esq.' after your name, right? So start now. Keep personal calls and appointments to a minimum. Keep accurate time records.

Come in and leave the office when most other summer associates do.

Be a Pleasure to Work With

Because many firms and summer classes are large, try to meet as many lawyers as possible this summer. That means going to as many social events as you can stomach, even when you'd rather be home watching "West Wing" reruns in your pajamas.

Finally, we can tell you right now one thing that will absolutely, without a doubt ensure failure for a summer associate: cockiness. We've seen it summer after summer -- no matter how stellar your work product, no matter how good your grades, no matter how strong your client development potential, if you're cocky, you simply won't get an offer. Period. So even if you feel like hot you-know-what, always be gracious and humble -- not just to the attorneys but just as importantly to support staff too. Trust us.

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