Avoid These Summer Associate Pitfalls

I attended a fascinating session at the NALP Conference last week in Boston featuring a panel discussing various summer associate missteps, many of which cost the offender a full-time offer. I briefly mentioned this in a series of tweets (@BaylorLawDaniel), and promised a longer discussion on this platform, so here it is.

The first category of summer associate (SA) behavior we’ll discuss falls under the umbrella of pride. Examples include: 1) an SA began talking during a negotiation conversation and made offers on behalf of the firm’s client, and
2) SA stating he didn’t need a trial advocacy class due to prior experience with…his own legal troubles. You need to understand your role and your place as a summer associate (and for that matter as a first and second year associate); don’t allow your pride to prevent you from earning a full-time offer, or worse, ruin your reputation and limit opportunities in the future.
These days, many firms try their best to only hire enough summer associates as they have the ability to hire full-time. Therefore there isn’t the same level of “competition” among the class of summer associates for a limited number of full-time positions as there used to be. That should make this next grouping of issues irrelevant, but sadly it hasn’t. SAs are known to rat out their fellow colleagues, talk to superiors about how much harder they are working than others, and even commit acts of sabotage. Funny enough, the examples given on this topic all wound up with the envious candidate not getting an offer, and the candidate(s) being talked about (even for valid reasons) getting an offer. Firms with large summer programs will treat you well, but don’t be presumptuous and don’t take advantage. Treating you to lunch at a nice restaurant doesn’t give you license to choose the most expensive bottle of wine on the menu or multiple courses of food. And speaking of wine, we should address the issue of overindulging. It happens in every summer program and the person quickly becomes known as “that guy” or “that girl.” Be smart when it comes to alcohol and don’t throw your future down the drain for one night of thrills. One more general comment on social behavior: embarrassing but otherwise innocent conduct may not crater your candidacy if your work is great, it’s a one-time thing and you show the proper awareness and remorse. But again, why take a chance? It should go without saying that you need to work hard during your clerkship and respect your employer, but I was amazed at the stories of summer clerks who didn’t show up for hours or days at a time, plagiarized work and even modified (i.e. falsified) their transcripts. But without question the most common issue within this genre is summer associates not responding to inquiries about a work assignment, and then leaving it with the supervisor on the last day of the clerkship, often incomplete or incorrect. Please communicate with whomever is giving you work, keep them up to speed, and let them know if you are falling behind or having trouble. They are going to find out at some point anyway, and when they do it will be too late for you. The last piece of advice from this session relates to background checks and social media checks. You should assume every employer is performing some type of check along these lines. Therefore, if you have an issue that could turn up, best disclose it yourself before they find out and believe you’ve hidden something from them.
Got more questions about summer associate bad behavior? Connect with Daniel at Daniel_Hare@Baylor.edu and/or @BaylorLawDaniel on Twitter. Job of the Week: Each week I highlight a job in Symplicity you might be interested in but may have missed. This week’s job is: Summer Clerk with Brown Fox PLLC(2L, Dallas) Log in to Symplicity to view this job and apply.

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