Summer Law Jobs 101
For law students, it is hard enough to get a good summer law job, whether at a private firm or public agency. Once this is achieved, the elation is immediately tempered with a stark fear of failure. You experience the realization that you will soon be making the transition from student to lawyer, albeit in a limited sense. Once you have a summer job at a firm, how can you ensure that the people who hired you will be satisfied with your performance and, more importantly, remember you as a worthy candidate for an associate’s job in the future?
*Always exercise good judgment
Before considering any of the advice below, one cardinal rule to remember, as a fallback position, is to always use good judgment in every situation you encounter. Do not think rashly but patiently. Take a step back and consider the situation. Think of the alternatives to your first inclination to act. If there is any doubt in your mind, refrain until reconsideration is possible later. Consult with a mentor. Remember, the attorneys at the firm expect you to seek guidance from them. At least, they should.
*Treat the position as an extended interview
From the time your summer job begins, treat it as an extended interview. Throughout the summer, carefully and diligently take the necessary care through your demeanor, attire, and interpersonal skills to demonstrate your professionalism. Show your superiors that you work hard at everything you undertake and are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Demonstrate an intellectual curiosity to show your energy and enthusiasm. Approach each day with the attitude that you will always do your best regardless of what it is that you are asked to accomplish.
*Start the process of formulating your career path
As the firm or agency is evaluating your work to determine whether you have any future potential as a full-time hire, you should use this time to determine if the work that you are doing during the summer is work that you want to do for what may be the next several years. Utilize your summer experience as an opportunity to begin to formulate ideas about your career path. Your summer job may provide resources and opportunities to get involved in diverse types of legal matters. If your summer firm has more than one area of practice, make sure that you explore these different practice areas, and even try to participate in actual projects to get a better feel for the work. Never be afraid to ask questions of the players in these different practice areas and determine what it is that they like and dislike about this type of work. Initiative builds knowledge, which builds experience.
Many summer interns show up for their first day of work afraid to walk past the reception area. They tend to be shy about interacting with anyone other than the person who hired them. It is never too early to seek out mentors and to build relationships with people in your firm or office. Knock on an attorney’s door and walk in and introduce yourself. The firm’s employees, including both attorneys and staff, are aware that this is likely an intern’s first dose of practical legal experience and realize the need for
guidance and answers to an intern’s concerns and questions. As a summer associate, participate in firm activities whenever possible and do not be afraid to get to know people on a social level. However, you must always remember to exhibit professionalism.
*Never pass on an opportunity to make a positive impression
You must take advantage of every situation that arises which will provide you with the opportunity to make a positive impression on coworkers, even a receptionist. Make sure that you have a presence in your office from the first day. Volunteer and act proactively. If possible, always try to do more than the assigned work. No matter how boring, stressful, or chaotic work gets, never take the approach of just doing the minimum work required so you can move on to the next task. Work hard to master your given assignments and always accept nothing less than excellence. A position such as this consumes just one short summer, which will be over before you know it. Thus, there is no reason not to do your best 100% of the time.
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